Album Review: Luke Bryan, Tailgates & Tanlines

Luke Bryan

Tailgates & Tanlines

Got a little boom in my big truck/Gonna open up the doors and turn it up. – “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)”

Girl you make my speakers go boom boom/Dancin’ on the tailgate in the full moon. – “Drunk on You”

Looking at those two lyrics from Luke Bryan’s new album, you can assume one of two things: Either Bryan was heavily influenced by hip-hop pioneers L’Trimm and their hit “Cars With the Boom,” or Tailgates & Tanlines falls victim to lazy songwriting. With all due respect to Tigra and Bunny, it looks like it’s the latter.

The country references are thrown about so fast and furiously here that duplicates inevitably pop up. There are multiple references to girls dancing on tailgates, squirrels and other assorted critters, moonshine, Dixie cups, dusty boots, old trucks, catfish and tractors. Sometimes the songs are about certain people or places, and sometimes they’re just about setting the RRPM (rural references per minute) record.

Occasionally, the country setting is put to good use. “Harvest Time,” for example, paints a vivid picture of a small town in the middle of its busiest season. “Tailgate Blues” takes many of the familiar references and turns them upside down, as even the usual comforts of quiet country hideaways can’t heal a broken heart.

All too often, though, the songs have no real meat underneath the catchphrases and references. They’re the same tired look at a vast hillbilly paradise – Val-holler, if you will – where the homemade wine is always flowing into Dixie cups, good ol’ boys are always ready to drive around in their trucks to find a good time after a hard day’s work on the farm, and the women are sexual props whose only purpose in life is to dance on tailgates on command.

When Alan Jackson sang “Chattahoochee,” there was so much detail that the listener felt certain that Jackson lived through all those experiences. Bryan’s “Muckalee Creek Water,” by comparison, has no such connection or personal attachment, even though there is a Muckalee Creek near Bryan’s hometown in south Georgia. That song, incidentally, references “a catfish line going bump bump bump,” so if you’re really into onomatopoeia, this is your album of the year.

The real shame is that those throw-away songs are a waste of some tremendous talent. Bryan has a strong voice that can make a good song sound even better.  “You Don’t Know Jack,” written by Erin Enderlin and Shane McAnally, gives a sympathetic portrayal to someone trapped by addiction. Sure, it won’t get a concert audience cheering and shouting, but it’s a standout track and one of the better songs of the year. While he is partly responsible for some of the album’s weakest tracks, Bryan also co-wrote some of its best, including “Harvest Time” and “Faded Away” (with Rodney Clawson and Michael Carter, respectively).

“Country Girl (Shake It for Me)” is turning into one of the biggest hits of Bryan’s career, which is bound to influence his future song choices. Good-time party anthems aren’t necessarily bad things, but too many of them on one album overwhelms the rest of the songs. Still, Kenny Chesney had to go through the “She Think My Tractor’s Sexy” phase before he got to covering Guy Clark, so there’s hope for Bryan.

Just leave the “booms” and “bumps” to fight sequences in the old Batman TV show, where they belong.


  1. Ha, awesome review… even though I will now have “Cars That Go Boom” stuck in my head for the rest of the morning.

    “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)” is turning into one of the biggest hits of Bryan’s career, which is bound to influence his future song choices.

    Scary thought, but true. I admit the song’s grown on me a little bit. It’s still dumb as dumb can be, but it’s a catchy performance. Still, I have no desire to see Luke Bryan travel further down that road.

  2. A lot of these “I’m so country” songs just make country people look like stupid, ignorant, sexist (Luke Bryan), racist (Eric Church) people. Its like: Are you pro country or are you actually making fun of the dumb country people who buy your records but are to stupid to realize that you are mocking them? I don’t know. Oh well. Sweetcheeks out!

  3. Good review. My biggest problem with this album was the homogeny. A lot of these songs just blend together after a while…

    On the plus side, it’s undeniably country. Most of the tracks had plenty of fiddle, steel, bango and the like. There were some really strong songs. And even the weaker songs, like Country Girl, still sound “fun”.

    I normally wouldn’t complain about the length of an album, but I think this one was just too long. Had it been shortened to 10 songs instead of 13, some of the weaker tracks that all seemed to sound the same could have been eliminated and brought the album up a good bit in terms of listenability and enjoyability.

  4. Entertaining review as always, Sam! I especially enjoyed:

    “…so if you’re really into onomatopoeia, this is your album of the year.”

    I tend to agree with Devin’s assessment of Luke Bryan in general.

  5. Sweetcheeks, I’m assuming that you’re talking about Eric Church’s “Homeboy” when you say racist, just because that’s the common argument about the song. But there really isn’t anything racist about the song: nowhere in the song does he even mention race at all.

  6. I believe it is more about the sensitivities of the country music listener, because I think this kind of stuff gives country music as a form of music both a black eye and a bad name, and rolls out all the negative stereotypes that have ever been hung on the genre.

  7. “Country Girl (Shake It for Me) is turning into one of the biggest hits of Bryan’s career, which is bound to influence his future song choices.”

    That’s the saddest part of this whole thing…

    There are certainly a couple terrible, terrible songs on here. However, I actually think that you could make an 8 song EP from the whole thing that would be one of the better major label releases of the year.

    “Too Damn Young” and “Faded Away” are extremely pleasant listens (if you don’t mind treading back down the reminiscing-on-young-love path), “You Don’t Know Jack” and “Harvest Time” are good songs, and even “I Know You’re Gonna Be There” and “I Knew You That Way” would be standout tracks on Jake Owen’s new album, for example. Throw in “Tailgate Blues” and “Drunk On You” for his target audiences, which at least have nice, laid back grooves to them.

    I’ve resorted to simply cherry-picking the 1-3 listenable songs from iTunes and ignoring the rest when it comes to new major releases, so I was actually pleasantly surprised by this.

  8. Rare is the occasion that I peruse a country review only to stumble upon the word ‘onomatopoeia’…..awesome. Entertaining read, great review.

    P.S. Tigra and Bunny, LOLOLOLOL!!!

  9. I agree that some of the lyrics may be a little elementary, but I don’t think that a few juvenile songs reflects an artist’s entire career. Luke Bryan is a good singer and songwriter all around; a few bad tracks don’t change that. “Country Girl (Shake it for Me)” is not a bad song either. It simply follows the trend that country music is taking these days. There are few artists who have not released a song that is supposed to appeal more to “pop” culture than just the country fans.

  10. If I have to hear this song one more time, I’m going to shake it at Luke Bryan!! This big ‘ol booty will make the speakers in his truck FALL OUT! Since when do country girls shake it, anyway? REAL country girls do the two-step!

  11. Whoever thinks this is a good review is just dumb and can’t hear this CD is absolutely amazing and heartfelt he and others put so much time and heart into this album. Y’all are just retarded

  12. Thanks, Bethany. I’m sure everyone appreciates your very thoughtful comment. It’s not like we’re allowed to have our own opinions or anything.

  13. I like the direction Luke is headed in with his songs,I like them. if you don’t like them don’t listen to his music. The funny part is that he makes more in one tour than you do in 2 years.

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