Easton Corbin’s debut hit A Little More Country Than That was part of a host of songs which came out in the pre-bro period between 2009 and 2012 where the singers boasted of being from rural parts of the USA; see also That’s How Country Boys Roll and Southern Voice. Easton opened for Brad Paisley and his country version of Are You With Me was reworked into a global dance hit. I once couldn’t work out how to turn on the data on my phone and the only song I could play for weeks was A Girl Like You, a number six radio hit for Easton that never appeared on an album.
After his third LP came out in 2015, we heard the excellent tempo tune Somebody’s Gotta Be Country, released independently in 2019 after Mercury dropped him. This seemed to be the first stirrings of a new album, but it has taken almost eight years for Let’s Do Country Right to emerge. It does so into a marketplace where streaming is big business and where the status of the bro has diminished, in spite of the presence of Brantley Gilbert, Jason Aldean and all the other guys who were on the radio in 2010. Fun fact: A Little More Country Than That knocked Hillbilly Bone off number one!
Rodney Clawson co-wrote Hey Merle which opens the album. It quotes plenty of Merle’s best songs and references elements of his life, ie ‘Did your mama cry on the day you left Muskogee?’ Easton’s Floridian twang sells the song well, and there’s four bars of guitar for good measure. Easton also covers Mama Tried in concert. The title track namechecks George Strait, as is obligatory when one seeks to evoke throwback tunes. There’s a fine blast of pedal steel and fiddle after the second chorus, and the song will sound great in the arenas where Easton is promoting the album this spring. They include: Goodwell, Oklahoma; Kinton Fork, North Carolina; Belle Glade, Florida; and Petco Park, San Diego.
Clawson and Ashley Gorley wrote Read Good Country Song, which they probably dashed off in fifteen minutes at the end of a session: ‘I want you in the bar, I want you in the car’ is evidence that points to this theory. Rhett Akins, who like Gorley helped refine the Bro sound, offers both Somebody’s Gotta Be Country (Easton’s set opener) and the sultry I Can’t Decide, a list of rural signifiers set to the effusive praise from a narrator who is bowled over by his beloved. Marry That Girl, written with the underrated Adam Craig, is a suitably gorgeous wedding song with the same guitar sound which was employed on Die A Happy Man.
Ben Hayslip, one of Akins’ fellow Peach Pickers usually found writing songs for country boys like Luke Bryan and Dustin Lynch, was in the room for Over A Girl. It’s yet another catchy two-chord song that lists what things should go with, ending with ‘boys were made to go little bit crazy over a girl’. David Lee Murphy was there for frothy feelgood filler Honky Tonk Land.
Elsewhere on the album, Between You and Me is a smart, Jon Pardiesque song which sounds like tonight is the night when two become one. Where Do You Go (‘from a girl like her’) is a deceptively uptempo tune with a sad lyric, while Wind You Up is a songwriting exercise written to the title. Showing some balance, there is a contemplative drinking song – Whiskey Don’t Take Me Back – and a happy one called Lonesome Drinkers, on which Easton sings of honkytonking being in his DNA. The twangin’ solo makes his point for him, though the song resets the chords of Head Over Boots a step lower.
Album closer In It comes from Laura Veltz and Jimmy Robbins, best known for writing The Bones with Maren Morris. There’s the old George Strait hits on the rim of the snare drum and an elegant arrangement which emphasises the lyrical hook and the sadness of a breakup: ‘When you open your eyes and that pretty little mind has a memory in it, I hope there’s still a little me in it.’ Great writing, very country and perfect for Easton Corbin.
I hope people hear this album, but the absence of a major label chucking money at it might mean it gets lost amid the Wallens and the Combses.