Single Reviews Round-Up: Kylie Frey, Luke Combs, Gabby Barrett, Jordan Davis, & Little Big Town

Photo (c) 2019 David Bergman for Sony Records Nashville -- Luke Combs photo shoot near Nashville, TN on May 1, 2019.

Luke Combs directly addresses COVID-19, Gabby Barrett delivers a disappointing sophomore single, and Little Big Town release the worst single from their otherwise great new album.

 

“Spur of the Moment”

Kylie Frey

Written by Kylie Frey and Leslie Satcher

Perhaps it’s cheating to throw in a single aimed solely at Texas country radio, but it’s all part of the country universe anyway, right?

I wish Kylie Frey would just release an album or EP instead of a couple scattered singles a year, but “Spur Of The Moment” is good regardless. Vocally, she’s somewhere between Reba McEntire, Natalie Maines and Jo Dee Messina, and her sound reflects that. On one hand, purposely stylizing one’s music as a throwback automatically sets it up for a niche audience. It’s not pushing the genre forward, in other words, but it’s more pleasant to listen to than the other songs in this roundup post; that’s for sure.

“Spur Of The Moment” is akin to a forgotten ‘90s cut, with excellent fiddle play and a driving melody. And while there’s general frustration for the woman left behind to watch her significant other chase his dreams as a rodeo man, she also understands his decision. After all, she’s the one chasing her own dreams as a musician, and while that distance between them causes strains for the relationship, they’re both willing to make it work; even if, again, she’s not about to sugarcoat the pain she feels.It’s not a dramatically deep listen by any means, but I can’t help myself from indulging in nostalgia, either.

Grade: B

Listen (studio version not on YouTube, sadly)

 

“Six Feet Apart”

Luke Combs

Written by Luke Combs, Brent Cobb, and Rob Snyder

As country music heads into the summer months – and as the music industry in general feels we need more upbeat songs for our current situation – I predict we’ll hear a lot of mediocrity on the charts to come. This leaves mainstream country music in a weird place, caught somewhere between a ‘90s revival, “boyfriend country” and nihilistic party songs, the last of which featuring rehashed lyrical ideas from the bro-country era.There’s, of course, nothing wrong with creating a song for our current situation; country music is the genre to offer a voice for the downtrodden, after all. It’s just that these attempts have ranged anywhere from lazy to outright bad.

It’s to Luke Combs’ advantage as a performer, then, that he typically effectively underplays his sentiments in song, making potentially cheesy or overblown moments ring as sincere. As such, new single “Six Feet Apart” is one of few songs to effectively capture the sentiment of the time. Sure, there’s a clumsy rhyme here and there, but Combs effectively expresses his frustration while acknowledging this threat is serious – and will continue as such, too. He’s a bit too optimistic about how soon it will all end in the second verse (and really, is “giving hugs and shaking hands” even going to be a thing anymore?), but still, it’s pure optimism that mostly connects.

One can tell the production job is rather slapdash, given how Combs and his team rushed to get a studio version of this song out to the public. It’s not overdone, but it is tepid, especially when compared to the acoustic version from his livestream. There just isn’t much diversity to the arrangement.

Grade: B-

Listen

 

“The Good Ones”

Gabby Barrett

Written by Gabby Barrett, Zach Kale, Emily Landis, and Jim McCormick

I liked “I Hope” in spite of its production problems, if only because, for as much as Gabby Barrett sounded drowned out, vocally, she had an edge to her delivery that worked perfectly for the track’s sentiment.

“The Good Ones,” though? Well, it’s nice to hear her voice kinda-sorta shine above the production, which still sounds as bland and stilted as most other mainstream country singles. But with the way the backing vocalists sit higher in the mix than they should, it creates a sharp dichotomy between them and her that’s unflattering.

Perspective is key with this track, too. Billboard tried to push “boyfriend country” as a term last year, which is just a way to dress up uninteresting love songs. It could, perhaps, be a way to shake off the negative connotation and sexism that “bro-country” carried for country music in the 2010s, but the problem is that it’s not much of an improvement. Not that it’s bad to show appreciation, of course, but most mainstream country dudes just show it by describing their woman through their looks (which completely belies the point) or through vague religious iconography (God doesn’t just hand y’all women – that’s not how that works).

That same problem affects this track, too. He’s a “phone call to his parents,” a “Bible by the bed,” a song stuck in my head,” This Mad Libs writing style just isn’t interesting. Barett loves her significant other, but I find it difficult to care when she hardly describes an actual person.

Grade: C

Listen

 

“Almost Maybes”

Jordan Davis

Written by Jordan Davis, Jesse Frasure, and Hillary Lindsey

That thing when an artist who credits Kris Kristofferson and Jason Isbell among his influences continues to embody the worst elements of Gavin DeGraw and Jason Mraz, instead. I guess I like the bongos, at least until they give way to a drum machine; which isn’t a note on drum machines so much as a note on how mainstream country music completely throws consistency out the window when it comes to its percussive elements.

Grade: C-

Listen

 

“Wine, Beer, Whiskey”

Little Big Town

Written by Tofer Brown, Karen Fairchild, Sean McConnell, Kimberley Schlapman, Phillip Sweet, and Jimi Westbrook

I like Karen Fairchild, but I’m all for the other Little Big Town members having their respective chances to shine on lead vocals, too. I’m not sure, however, that Jimi Westbrook could have delivered a more overdone performance here. Granted, this feels like an odd cut for this band anyway, what with the horns blaring across the entire song. Instead of channeling the Mavericks, though, they decided to make this party song dark and foreboding … for whatever reason. I suppose I understand their intention to make it sound slick, but instead it’s just incredibly clunky and choppy. There’s no sense of groove to this whatsoever. I’m one of few critics who’ll go to bat for the group’s Nightfall album from earlier this year, but not for this song.

Grade: D+

Listen

8 Comments

  1. I disagree on Wine, Beer & Whiskey- it’s one of those songs you can tell the band is legitimately having fun. I understand that critically it is not on par with Girl Crush or Your Side of the Bed, but it is a fun song with a different sound.

    I love this band and I will admit they have had more than their fair share of missteps, but in my opinion, this is not one of them.

    Side note: Great to have you onboard Zack. I thoroughly enjoy The Musical Divide, and it is great to have you join my favorite country music blog.

  2. I will admit I wasn’t sure what to make of it when I first heard it, so I can totally understand this reaction. Like I said, I really enjoyed the new album otherwise.

    Also, thanks! It’s one of my favorites as well and a huge inspiration behind my own website. One week in as a writer here, and so far I’m enjoying it a lot!

  3. I do like “Almost Maybes” from a melody and lyric perspective and I do think Jordan Davis is a bit underrated as a vocalist. Not show stopping but decent. B to a B+

    Also for as much as I am here for and want woman to succeed on country radio Gabby Barrett does nothing for me. Her vocals are just so dull, and besides both being on American Idol I don’t get why people compare her vocally to Carrie Underwood.

    Honestly if I want woman who are on major labels to succeed give me Carly Pearce, Ashley McBryde, Maddie & Tae, Kacey Musgraves, and especially Lauren Alaina over Gabby Barrett.

  4. I’m usually lukewarm on Little Big Town. I tend to like them better live than on record, but I have to admit that I like “Wine Beer and Wiskey”. I like the energy of the performance and I’m a sucker for horns.

  5. …in the context of the whole “nightfall” album, which is a quite fascinating collection of material, “wine, beer, whiskey” is only making sense to me as a parody of a drinking/party song. it is so over the top and the odd one out of the album. on the other hand, it seems to work as a simple party/summer song too, which also is nothing new to lbt – just remember “day drinking” or “pontoon”. there is something oddly catchy about “wine, beer, whiskey”. moreover, its release is perfectly in tune with the time of the year. grade: b weird?

  6. Leeann –

    I, too, am usually a sucker for horns!

    Tom –

    Its timing does coincide with the incoming summer months, though I think it’s a bit too overly dark to be a “summer smash” (at least it has more flavor than that “Summer Fever” single from a few years ago).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.