Country Jukebox Jury LP: Chase Rice – I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go To Hell

The Florida Georgia Line song Cruise, which Chase Rice co-wrote, was the first country song to sell 10m copies or equivalent. Thus Chase is a diamond-selling songwriter and should live off the interest of that song for decades.

As an artist, he is still best known for two things: Ready Set Roll, a bro-y song that rode the Cruise trend; and that he put on a gig during a pandemic and still has a career. In fact, he plays the Ryman Auditorium as part of the tour to promote this new album. His ‘Head Down Eyes Up’ mantra helps shift merch, while songs like Eyes On You and Drinkin’ Beer Talkin’ God Amen kept him on the radio.

This new album has already received rave notices from James Daykin at EF Country, who awarded it a five-star review and called it ‘an absolute triumph: personal, meaningful, heartfelt’. It is, but I had fun playing Spot The Influence.

Opener Walk That Easy smoulders with a chugging chorus and meditative, very rural lyrics (‘paint turns rust and trucks get sold’) which basically rewrite the lyrics to the Charlie Worsham song Love Don’t Die Easy. Chase continues the mood on All Dogs Go To Hell, which puts the term ‘I miss you’ in the double negative form – you should be familiar with my term ‘alpha-privative’ by now.

I was blown away by Way Down Yonder, the track about country life (‘making love where bees make honey’) which gives its name to Chase’s forthcoming tour. Was this rootsy song made by the same guy who talk-sung his way through the dull Eyes On You? Given that Chase was in the room for Cruise, he does know how to write a copper-plated chorus. He also gets his mouth around some tongue-twisting lyrics: ‘Where coppers don’t crack down on them copper steels’ and ‘a bunch of bootleg birdies and their bandit boys’ are just good writing. It’s no surprise that Hunter Phelps, who hangs out with Wallen and Hardy, was in the room.

Brian Kelley was there for Key West & Colorado (‘a brand new way to say adios’), a gentle tune which could have fitted on his own impressive renaissance album from last year. Kudos on the rhyme Austin/ Boston too. Isn’t it interesting how the millionaire bros are pivoting to a post-Wallen/Combs/Stapleton world? The school fees and second-home utility bills need topping up.

The super trio of Hardy, Brad from Old Dominion and Ross Copperman helped Chase write the album closer I Hate Cowboys, where he moans of how proper Texan chaps steal his women. The second verse is three phrases long, proving the maxim not to bore us and get to the chorus. Spot the Influence led to the conclusion that the song is basically a more spiteful take on A Guy Walks Into A Bar, which was written by Brad from Old Dominion. You can’t self-plagiarise, after all.

Bench Seat, with its mini-feature video, is told from the perspective of a man’s best friend, his dog. It transpires that the man who inspired the song was in dire straits and only the affection shown by his dog stopped him from doing anything stupid. There’s a lump in Chase’s throat in the final chorus, perhaps in yours too.

The song is one of three 100%-ers, along with If I Were Rock & Roll and Life Part of Livin’. This pair was where I realised Chase has basically made an Eric Church tribute album: the former has a reference to Nascar in the first line mimics the setting of Talladega, but he chickens out of singing ‘ass’ for reasons of taste or intended audience (ie fans of Eyes On You); the latter spins the title of Eric’s song Livin’ Part of Life into avuncular advice. I was listening out for ‘I learned not to put on a show for a maskless crowd during a global pandemic’ but Chase must have cut that line in the edit.

Elsewhere, Bad Day To Be A Cold Beer is one of those songs where a millionaire tries to empathise with a working man by singing about a post-shift blowout. It sounds like an Eric Church song, probably on purpose. The groovy honky-tonker Sorry Momma (‘for the hell you raised!’) spends its first verse extolling the virtues of alcohol, which Homer Simpson famously called the cause of, and solution to, all the world’s problems. The piano wigout reminds me of another act, probably on purpose.

I Walk Alone opens with an arpeggiated acoustic guitar and Chase hitting the top of his range singing of numb hands and weak knees; I’d take the character, and his ebullient final chorus, more seriously if the singer hadn’t put on a concert during the pandemic for a maskless crowd. I think I’ve made my point.

Read Southall and his band join Chase on the seven-minute jam Oklahoma, a midtempo ballad about a girl whose guitar wigout mimics Talladega, and (as writers) on Goodnight Nancy, which nicks the chord progression from The Weight by The Band to tell the tale of ‘heading on South where the saltwater meets the sand’. Because you can’t copyright a chord progression, Chase gets away with this homage, but as with Blurred Lines the vibe is so similar that a lawsuit may arise.

This album is a homage to other (and better) songs. It doesn’t make its art any less impactful, and when Chase comes to play the UK to tour the album he will certainly help people have a good night. But it does make the experienced listener play a game of Spot The Influence.

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