Tag Archives: Justin Moore

Bushel o’ Belated Single Reviews

Sometimes – most of the time – I fall behind on my planned CU work and wind up with a backlog of opinions. And it can be so mentally taxing carrying all that around, you know? Gotta clean out the file sometime. So if you happen to be feeling nostalgic for, oh, five months ago, please join me in considering a bunch of singles which came out around then and pretending like they’re brand-new.

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Rodney Atkins, “Farmer’s Daughter”

A warm production, likable vocal by Atkins. I just can’t bring myself to care about the story. Nothing about it feels urgent or revelatory.  Grade: C

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yt5m2qYdD1A

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Steve Azar, “Sunshine”

How this has crept up to become his first Top 30 single in eight years is beyond me, since it’s about as exciting as a dreamless nap. A true “sleeper hit,” yuk yuk. Oh! And does it not totally sound like that “Ooohhh, but I feel it” song from the 90’s? Anyway, a pleasant enough listen if you’re in the mood for it.  Grade: C+

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SouBO6wov14

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The Band Perry, “If I Die Young”

It sounds like what would happen if Taylor Swift listened to one Caroline Herring track – just one – and decided to come up with her own version. I mean that in a good way, mostly. Kimberly Perry has written and performed a very pretty-sounding record here, gratuitous “uh oh”s aside, and and Republic Nashville should be commended for releasing something with such ambitious subject matter as a second single.

I just wish the song itself had undergone some more revision first. The pieces are set for a sweet, eloquent hypothetical about premature death, but then that third verse comes and it sounds like she’s actually anticipating her demise and has an agenda for it. It’s muddling.

So, not the home run it could have been. But still an admirable effort.  Grade: B-

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NJqUN9TClM&ob=av2e

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Laura Bell Bundy, “Drop on By”

It looks like this single has already fallen off the radar, which is a big shame. Bundy’s controlled performance demonstrates why she’s among the most promising new acts out there, and the song is a sweet sip of lounge-y countrypolitan.

What’s missing is a great hook. “Drop on By” is a kind of a ho-hum central phrase, and it isn’t matched with a memorable enough melody here to make it really stick. Then again, the tracks on Bundy’s album that do have good hooks (“Cigarette”, “If You Want My Love”) won’t fit radio anyway because they’re too sharp and unique. The gal can’t win.  Grade: B

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb9T8Jcjmo0&ob=av2e

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Eric Church, “Smoke a Little Smoke”

For a number of reasons – the biggest of which was “Love Your Love the Most” dancing on my gag reflex, but there were others – I passed altogether on listening to his sophomore album, and ignored this single’s existence for a good while.

Now I’ve heard it, though, and damn it, I can’t go back. This ode to substance-fueled escapism may be the most daring country single of the year, even without the “stash” reference in the album version. The record actually sounds like a weird high, with snaky acoustic guitars, jarring electrics, and creepy-cool effects on the vocals, yet it never sacrifices accessibility in pursuit of its aesthetic. It ain’t a country sound (check those Collective Soul-aping “yeah”s), but it’s serving a very country theme, and for once, Church’s frat-boy cockiness actually works.  Grade: A-

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh3Rb3xBeU0

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Easton Corbin, “Roll With It”

More lightweight, breezy Strait-gazing. The chorus has a bit of an awkward meter, but I’ll deal. In earlier days, this might have been a bit boring compared to its company at radio. Today, it’s just refreshing.  Grade: B

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ5sVKhynj0

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Randy Montana, “Ain’t Much Left of Lovin’ You”

Don’t care for this guy’s name – sounds like a rodeo emcee’s or something – but what a cool-sounding debut single. Mournful guitar licks, propulsive beat, appealingly gritty vocal. If only the melody were as confident throughout as it is in the second half of the chorus (“The heaven we had / The hell that I’m going through / Other than that / There ain’t much left of lovin’ you”). Still, not too shabby.  Grade: B+

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnYZVU0jpUo

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Justin Moore, “How I Got to Be This Way”

Strike three. Moore seems to have potential, and I don’t mean to pick on him or his writers, but his output since “Back That Thing Up” represents everything I don’t like about mainstream country today. This is loud, one-dimensional, and worst of all, uninteresting.  Grade: D

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYdlUP91ohQ

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David Nail, “Turning Home”

I’ll say this for David Nail: he’s ambitious. Though his first two singles didn’t win me over, I found something bold to admire in each. “I’m About to Come Alive” cast him as a co-dependent loser – not exactly flattering – while “Red Light” aimed for psychological depth with its focus on the mundane nature of break-ups. Both were refreshingly moody for country radio, and both could have made great breakthrough hits were the songs themselves a bit more compelling.

From a compositional standpoint, “Turning Home” isn’t actually as risky or complex as those forerunners; in fact, it’s very much your typical nostalgic Kenny Chesney co-write. But it’s crisp and coherent enough to give Nail some interpretive room, and he reaches for the stars, delivering an emotional, octave-sweeping performance that goes a long way toward breathing new life into the well-trod themes.

He unfortunately has to do battle with a screechy electric guitar that surfaces in the instrumental break, and there’s no denying that this single owes much more to Elton John or Gavin DeGraw-type artists than it does to anyone in the realm of traditional country. Nevertheless, Nail’s ambition was well-spent here.  Grade: A-

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPmjri35cBM&ob=av2e

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Josh Thompson, “Way Out Here”

His “Beer on the Table” was enjoyable, if a bit derivative-sounding, but I’ll pass on this one. It’s pretty much a less friendly, slightly wittier version of “Small Town U.S.A.”, of which I was never a fan in the first place.  Grade: D+

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0sYnro_3Rc

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Justin Moore, “Backwoods”

justin-moore-copyEmpty  barrels make the most noise.

Written by Justin Moore, Jamie Paulin, and Jeremy Stover

Grade: D

Listen: Backwoods

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Justin Moore, “Small Town USA”

justin-moore-copyWhat can you say when the song title tells you upfront how generic the song itself is going to be? I mean, the thing practically reviews itself, doesn’t it?

Seriously, though, the problem here isn’t that the song is about why living in a small town is (as you might guess) awesome.  The problem is that it doesn’t really give anyone who doesn’t feel the same way any reason to feel otherwise. It was clearly written solely to appeal to a demographic of people who also live in small towns and can relate to surface-level ideas like “everybody knows me and I know them” and “give me a Sunday morning that’s full of grace” (or in Moore’s case, “grA-a-A-a-A-ace”) without any further development of those ideas.

But that’s the thing: without further development, the ideas just sound really, really clichéd. Simply pointing out that you enjoy a “six-pack of Lite” doesn’t really tell me much about you, because guess what? Lots of people from lots of different living environments like lite beer. You have to give your ideas a little context for them to mean anything to anyone but you.

The problem reminds me of “Redneck Woman,” which also glorified a particular rural lifestyle but felt a lot more accessible in how it did so. I think what made the difference was that Gretchen Wilson explained why she liked being a redneck instead of just saying, “hey, I like being a redneck.” For instance, when she mentioned that she liked to drink beer, she set it up as a contrast to being a “Barbie Doll-type” who “swig[s] that sweet champagne,” so that even if we couldn’t relate to that particular preference ourselves, we could see where she was coming from and apply the greater principle in play to ourselves. If her life was a party, she let us in on it.

Moore, on the other hand, is like that guy who calls you from inside the party to let you know how awesome it is without actually explaining what’s going on. It’s not that you don’t believe him; it’s just that he never explains why you should happen to care.

Grade: D+

Listen: Small Town USA

Buy:

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Justin Moore, "Back That Thing Up"

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed that this isn't a countrified version of the Juvenile hit.   Alas, it's just a hillbilly rave-up that finds a country boy trying to get a city girl used to farm life, using backing up a truck as an awkward sexual metaphor (“Throw it in reverse and let Daddy load it up.”  Seriously.)

To his cred

it, Moore throws himself fully into the lyric like he's Joe Diffie singing a mid-nineties novelty number.   I'd like to hear him use that personality on more interesting material, and leave songs like this to Rodney Carrington, who is the master of the dirty country song.

Grade: B-

Listen: Back That Thing Up

Buy: Back That Thing Up

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