By: Tony Manfetano
Do you like Brantley Gilbert? Jason Aldean? Florida Georgia Line? This cocktail of twang, rock, rap and soul we call modern country music. Well, my little volume cranking, dirt road riding, moonshine sipping heartbreakers, guess who started all that over a decade ago. Big & Rich.
The duo made up of John Rich and Big Kenny have been shooting their eclectic musical experiments directly into our ear holes since before Taylor was Swift. As in most cases though the first ones to try something do not usually get the veneration till other people start imitating it. Perhaps they truly are a Horse Of A Different Color.
Big and Rich’s vocals are akin to dipping a french fry in chocolate milkshake. It does not sound like it is supposed to be good, but when that hot salty combines with cold sweet the amalgam is delicious. They incorporated rap and rock guitars into their songs without sacrificing great lyric realism and traditional country undertones. And “Gravity”, the pair’s fifth studio album, does not disappoint.
Right out of the gate “Look At You”, is a message to all of the pop country artists out right now who think they can get by with a catchy hook and loud guitars. Is this a pop country song? Why yes it is, but this is Kenny and John saying, “no, this is how you do it”. Listen and learn. “Lovin’ Lately”, is a tale as old as time about wondering who’s boots have been under your ex’s bed. The line, “I don’t wanna know, but I gotta know”, says it all. Relatable to a high school sweetheart or ex-spouse. Even if you have never been in love, you have wondered if one of your bros says he is busy but is really at the wing hut with some other bro. Some other bro that is drinking your beer! Bro.
The titular title track, (alliteration makes every review better), melds Big & Rich’s unique esoteric style with the talent and truth of which we have come to expect from the music row veterans. This song is almost Beatle-esque in execution but twisted up with steel guitar reminders that they are all about the love.
Okay, so we have heard them show the kids how it is done, take it down home and hit us with originality. And that is just the first three tracks. “Lose A Little Sleep”, already gets points for the banjo intro and low country guitar licks. Extra credit is awarded for reference to the late George Jones.
“Don’t Wake Me Up”, might be one of the most heartfelt songs I have heard in a long while. Written by John Rich and Michael Ray this memory evoking song is delivered by virtue of Rich’s honest voice till Kenny comes in creating that distinct harmony we have grown to love. Grabbing the listener abruptly by the first hook this track will make anyone hearken back to that one that got away.
“That Kind Of Town”, kind of caught me off guard. Though the opening line is a grabber, a cursory listen may imply this is just another hometown song. I pick up a deeper, latent message in the chorus, though. As if they are reminding us that not everyone lives in a progressive coastal city. When we are inundated with songs about trucks, tractors, bonfires and cruising it is because that is still what most of the country can relate to.
There are definitely a few filler songs amidst this album by and by that may constitute a tap of the “next” button. All in all this is just what we want from a fifth album. Comfortable consistency tangled with brutal originality.
This debut from newly formed label Big & Rich Records is fun and clever without taking itself too seriously. Even though I think the album should have been called, “Um, ya’ll know we started this, right”?