Garth Brooks Fires a Shot a Traditional Country with Gunslinger: A Track By Track Review.

Garth Brooks – Gunslinger
Artist: Garth Brooks
Album: Gunslinger
Score: 6.5/10

A dial tone answered by a 911 operator isn’t what one would expect to hear when first pressing play on Garth Brooks recent album Gunslinger.  I don’t believe anyone really knew what to expect from the country icon’s return album.  

In retrospect, it’s easy to see the business strategy of Garth Brooks and his management team.

Long before Gunslinger was released, Garth Brooks slowly built up toward his record release for Gunslinger with a plethora of savvy publicity strategies: he founded GhostTunes, an online music store and digital library.  He embarked on a massive arena tour with wife and fellow country artist Trisha Yearwood.  Television featured him on major programs like Good Morning America and SEC college football.  It appeared everywhere pop culture turned, Brooks was present with his hands involved.

Finally on November 25th, 2016, Brooks released the much anticipated album. Shockingly, it debuted only at number 4 on Billboard’s Top Country Album chart.  Given its buzz and hype, Gunslinger was expected to give an immediate jolt in Country record sales.

What happened?  

Well, Gunslinger was not made available for purchase on iTunes as a way to drive traffic and sales into Brooks’ company, GhostTunes.

Don’t let the release technique deter you from the songs on the album.  At the end of the day, it’s the music that matters – not how it was released.  

Thankfully, Brooks and his team of songwriters didn’t jump into the Bro-Country boat for the sake of a quick buck.  Instead, the album captures the familiar feel of traditional Country music without the twang overload.  A balance only few can get right.  It’s apparent that Brooks doesn’t have the most stellar voice in the scene but after a 30 year musical career and a long hiatus, there was bound to be rust.  Brooks’ confidence in his voice and abilities helps the listener cope with an old-timer in a modern world.  Personally, I think if Brooks felt he couldn’t pull off a quality record like Gunslinger, he would not have created it.   

Below is a track by track description:

1.  Honkey Tonk Somewhere

A quintessential introduction to a traditional country album.  Honkey Tonk Somewhere signals a cry for help desperately seeking a drink: “There’s got to be a honkey tonk somewhere!

2.  Weekend

Catchy from its pulsating intro until its final notes.  Perfect for your next road trip as Brooks shouts “It’s a weekend all over the world.”

3.  Ask Me How I Know.

A Dierks Bently-esq tune which retells the start and end sequences of a relationship.

4.  Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance

The lead single from Gunslinger.  Aside from its dance-like groove, prickly guitar strumming, and a funky-ass bass solo, the song lacks genuine emotion that listeners can invest in.

5.  He Really Loves You

A slow and easy standout track.  He Really Loves You features fitting tempo changes accompanied by personal lyrics.

6.  Pure Adrenaline

With remnants of ZZ Top, think fast highway driving but don’t count of this track climbing the Country charts anytime soon.

7.  Whisky to Wine with Trisha Yearwood

A traditional country duet.   Brooks and Yearwood sing each other’s praises while acknowledging that missing spark of two people in love.  

8.  Bang Bang

Bang Bang is the sort of song Brooks would play immediately after Thunder Rolls to get the energy back in the room at a live performance.

9.  Cowboys and Friends.

Cowboys and Friends features great musicianship focused around lyrical content about country partying.  Despite the young topic matter, the track deserves a listen.

10.  8teen

A Tom Petty meets Eagles type rock track.  8teen is a coming full circle song that makes for a great farewell to tie up a solid country album.


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