“One Hell of an Amen”
Written by Brian Davis, Mike Dekle, and Brantley Gilbert
I actually feel kind of bad for Brantley Gilbert. His heart is totally in the right place. But the execution is absolutely horrendous.
Attempting to tackle two different tragedies in one song – a fallen soldier and death by cancer – and fails to stumble upon any truth in either individual situation, let alone a compelling connection between the two.
“Gonna Wanna Tonight”
Written by Shane McAnally, Jon Nite, and Jimmy Robbins
Here’s what I don’t understand.
Let’s put all of the clichés to the side for a minute. Going out, drinking, fishing dock, pretty red lips, yada yada yada. They’re all here, as uninteresting as ever.
“I Got the Boy”
Written by Connie Harrington, Tim Nichols, and Jamie Lynn Spears
The sentiment is quite poignant. “I got the boy. She got the man.” A high school sweetheart reminisces as she sees her boyfriend from back then has gotten married.
The writers establish some wonderful specifics in the verses that help to bring the characters to life. But the chorus is bland both lyrically and melodically, so the payoff from the buildup isn’t there.
“Second Hand Heart”
Written by Dwight Yoakam
Easily his strongest single since “The Back of Your Hand”, Dwight Yoakam is at his best on his new release, “Second Hand Heart.”
Returning to the weathered heartache territory that he does better than anyone else, “Second Hand Heart” captivates from its opening line: “She said, ‘When I trusted love, I dreamed in color, too.'” Eight words out of her mouth and she’s a fully realized character, the mirror image of Yoakam’s protagonist, who recognizes a kindred spirit underneath all of that weariness on the surface.
“I See You”
Written by Luke Bryan, Ashley Gorley, and Luke Laird
This is the sound of an artist that’s struggling against the confines of the niche he’s been assigned, but not being willing to give up enough of the trappings to completely break free.
Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe
Written by Brent Anderson and Ryan Hurd
It’s billed as a duet, but it’s about as much as an equal pairing as Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle back in the day. Monroe essentially plays a harmony role, singing an answer line from time to time.
Not the best use of her talent, though it seems the only way to get her on the radio is in a feature spot, which is better than nothing. “Lonely Tonight” is a decent spin on the classic “just one more night” theme.
“I’m to Blame”
Written by Westin Davis, Kip Moore, and Justin Weaver
When Kip Moore puts on the outlaw boots, they actually fit just right. He’s not posing. He’s not playing a character. He’s singing his truth, and he can get done singing that truth in two minutes and seventeen seconds.
Zac Brown Band
Written by Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette, and Niko Moon
Zac Brown Band has been doing so many variations on the same handful of themes – relaxing, drinking, digging your hometown – that each new release has to mix thing up a bit to justify its existence.
Kenny Chesney with Grace Potter
Written by Kenny Chesney, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne
No, it isn’t as strong as “You and Tequila.” Let’s get that out of the way right now, because expecting that lightning to strike twice will make it easy to miss the subtle beauty of “Wild Child”, Chesney’s new collaboration with Grace Potter.
Potter’s harmonies provide the perfect lift to Chesney’s understated and grounded vocal performance, allowing for the two singers to mirror the two characters of the song: a free-spirited woman who follows the wind and the man who is along for the ride.
“Take Your Time”
Written by Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne
“Take Your Time” is interesting for its combination of rapidly delivered spoken word and warmly sung melody, and for its tentative attempts to acknowledge a woman’s own agency.
The structure borrows heavily from contemporary urban music, and will sound familiar to anyone who has listened to a fair amount of Drake. But Hunt keeps the proceedings grounded enough in country that it doesn’t sound nearly as reductive as it could’ve been.