They Call Me Cadillac
In a male-dominated industry, it’s often difficult to hear distinction in the plethora of male voices on mainstream country radio. We do not have such a challenge with Randy Houser, however. Instead, Houser has a voice that rivals the soul and strength of Brooks and Dunn’s Ronnie Dunn. Regrettably, his debut album mainly suffered from production that detracted from his distinctive voice by placing heavy emphasis on the trending bombast of the times.
Houser’s promise was not completely absent, however, as demonstrated on strong songs like “Anything Goes”, “Something Real” and “How Many Times”, along with the playful “Lie”. Unfortunately, those moments were overshadowed by the larger raucous tone of the album, which, ultimately, made the disc uneven. So, in one of the small positive twists of 2010, Houser’s new album, They Call Me Cadillac, is a pleasant divergence from his previous effort.
Along with the jaunty title track that, apparently, refers to Houser’s nickname, “Out Here in the Country”, and “I’m All about It” help to fill the uptempo quota that is inarguably needed for a mainstream release. These songs are catchy with a certain level of cheeky charm to keep them enjoyable. Additionally, “A Man Like Me” is a pleasing throwback to a Waylon Jennings sound with a refreshing modern twist to it. On the mellower end of things, the slow burning “Addicted” and the pretty waltz, “If I Could Buy Me Some Time”, help to serve as a good counterbalance.
There are a couple of missteps on the album, however. “Whistlin’ Dixie”, the album’s lead single, is simply an intolerable wall of noise full of insufferable clichés for the express purpose of conjuring up southern imagery. The other notable stumble on the album is sonically pleasing, but lyrically troubling. “Will I Always Be This Way” is a self-indulgent lament of a man who doesn’t know if he can ever settle down. While the sentiment is a continual trope of country songs, it’s expressed especially distastefully in this one, as Houser asks, “Will I ever be the kind of guy / Who’s running home every night / To the little house / And doing right by the little wife?”
Luckily, the album is rarely interrupted by such inferior material. Instead, it’s largely comprised of solid songs with some standout gems, particularly the bone-chillingly spare “Lead Me Home”, a bluesy gospel song that Houser vocally nails with just the right mix of soul and restraint. Similarly, “Somewhere South of Memphis” is also impressively soulful, as its title rightfully suggests.
Randy Houser is now on the Toby Keith-owned label, Show Dog Universal. Interestingly, it seems that despite Keith’s reputation for in-your-face songs and productions, Houser has still been granted the freedom to dial back the loud that pervaded his freshman album to embrace a less cluttered, more organic sound for his sophomore project. Rather than the screaming guitars and pulsating rhythms that largely drove Anything Goes, this album manages to find a way to retain the energy from the first album while sounding relaxed and allowing Houser to seem more comfortable with his songs. Electric guitars and hooky drum beats are still a part of the equation, but fiddles, acoustic and steel guitars are just as present, which mercifully allows the two styles to positively coexist.
Randy has an amazing voice, full of potential but to say that it rivals the strength and soul of Ronnie Dunn’s voice is overstretching it a bit. Love Randy, but he is no match for Ronnie Dunn.
Hmmm…I disagree. In some ways, I’d even say that he might be better, as he doesn’t get as pitchy as Ronnie can get at times.
Great review and I certainly agree on the album. I will say that “I’m All About It” was removed from final production releases of the album (it was tacked as an iTunes pre-order track instead).
As for the Ronnie Dunn comparison, until somebody said something a while back, I didn’t hear it. While it’s an obvious point of refrence, I think there’s quite a bit more ‘color’ and ‘character’ to Randy’s voice.
Good point. I forgot that I bought the version with three extra songs on it, though I bought mine at Amazon. It’s not even a dollar more for the extra tracks.
“Will I Always Be This Way”, oddly enough, was a positive standout to me. Houser’s vocals really shine there.
That said, I agree with the rest of your review here. And it IS an extraordinary relief, in that everything Houser had released to radio in-between his breakout smash “Boots On” and his latest release suggested he was veering towards more rabid, chicken-fried metal bravado and sloganeering.
In fact, I recall when “I’m All About It” was reviewed by The 9513, and a poster named “randy” who claimed to be Houser himself responded and admitted the mediocrity of the track and explaining why it was he recorded it……..which brought about a debate regarding whether it was truly Randy Houser or not. At the time I was skeptical, to say the least, that it was Hoser……..but after hearing this exquisite sophomore record, I’ve grown increasingly convinced it may very well have been him and his regret to his own single release was authentic given it’s not even featured on the original version (it’s included as a bonus track on the deluxe edition).
I think the “little wife” phrase is what soured me toward that song.
Yes you are right, it is a male dominated genre, but it shouldn’t be – there are a hell of a lot of great female singers in country (some pretty lousy ones too I might add), but Randy Hauser oversteps the “Good Ole Boy” persona with the comment about the “little wife” – shame – shame – shame…otherwise not bad.
You’re right about that “little girl” pairing. I rolled my eyes a bit when I heard that, as I felt Houser could have easily used any other two-syllable word like “precious” or “lovely” instead of using what could easily be interpreted as a misogynistic pondering.
Even so, I’m willing to give Houser the benefit of the doubt there, as I still the whole of “Will I Always Be This Way” one of the three strongest tracks to me (the other two being “Somewhere South of Memphis” and “Lead Me Home”) Not only are his vocals very expressive there, but I love the sparse, organic production and accents of steel guitar.
I meant “little wife”, not “little girl” (not that either one is any less demeaning than the other)
When I was referring to Ronnie Dunn’s voice in a previous comment on this thread, I think “sharp” would have been more accurate t\han “pitchy.”