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Luke BryanAlbum Review - Luke Bryan: What Makes You Country

soundslikenashville.com

Album Review

There is no denying that Luke Bryan is a country boy. Throughout his sixth studio album, aptly titled What Makes You Country, the Georgia native sings about his country roots, among other topics. Co-produced by Jeff and Jody Stevens, What Makes You Country features 15 versatile tracks that vary from love and loss to the power of a song and dreaming big.

“I’ve gotten to follow all my dreams and still remain true to who I am as a person,” Bryan says. “I just try to go in the studio and record music that makes me happy, makes me feel something and makes me emotional at times. Songs that I visualize my crowd reacting to.”

While Bryan includes catchy party songs like “Drinking Again” and “Driving This Thing” on the album, he also digs deep on the poignant “Most People Are Good” and the standout “Land of A Million Songs,” making for a well-rounded release that tugs on the heartstrings. Bryan co-wrote seven of the album’s 15 tracks and whether he’s singing about the life he hopes his sons will have on “Pick It Up” or how to treat a girl on “Like You Say You Do,” Bryan reaffirms exactly why he’s one of the genre’s most sought after artists.

On the title track “What Makes You Country,” Bryan sings of the constant debate of what makes someone country. Is it their boots, the size of their fires or their “wild ass buddies?” As he reminisces of his own days on the farm covered in peanut dust, Bryan explains that country can be found in everything. “You can be a cowboy on the Texas plain / Or a plow boy waitin’ on the rain / We’re all a little different but we’re all the same / Everybody doin’ their own thing,” he sings. “Just be proud of what makes you country.”

Later, he shares his optimistic views on humanity within the lyrics of the powerful “Most People Are Good.” Penned by David Frasier, Ed Hill and Josh Kear, the song’s sweet sentiment has Bryan singing of how he believes kids should stay kids as long as they can and the importance of working hard for what you want in life.

“I believe most people are good / And most mamas oughta qualify for sainthood / I believe most Friday nights look better under neon or stadium lights / I believe you love who you love, ain’t nothin’ you should ever be ashamed of / I believe this world ain’t half as bad as it looks,” he sings on the chorus.

When he’s not offering philosophical views on life, Bryan amps up his sex appeal with songs like the sultry summer jam “Out of Nowhere Girl.” A tale of running into a girl at a bar on a Saturday night, Bryan muses of how she “fell right out of the sky and landed right here tonight” to dance with him. His rhythmic singing style combined with hand snapped beats and soaring guitar licks heat things up. Meanwhile, on “Hungover In a Hotel Room” added harmonies from Emily Weisband light a spark as Bryan croons of a fun night under the sheets that has him considering to extend his hotel stay.

The album’s standout moments include two songs Bryan had a hand in writing, “Land of A Million Songs” and “Pick It Up.” On “Land of A Million Songs” he sings of his move to Nashville in hopes to chase after the songs inside him.

“Everybody’s got a story that needs to be told / And they pray someday they’ll hang a little Gold / And ride back to their hometown with their head held high / On any given day there’s a dream, there’s a chance that lightning will strike at the end of a pen and all of the leaving and losing will all be worth the fight / So you’re always searching for a little something different to say,” he sings. Later, he observes, “Some will come and some will go / If you don’t lay it all out there you’ll never know.”

On “Pick It Up” Bryan is quite literally laying things out for his sons in hopes to guide them in life. Throughout the song, he sings of leaving a fishing rod, Bible, guitar and Ronnie Milsap record in his son’s room. While he doesn’t want to force them to pick these things up, he instead wishes that one day they might find some interest and smile when they think of him.

Six albums into his career, Bryan continues to surprise listeners. While the hip-shaking singer may be best known for his party anthems and dance moves in concert, What Makes You Country has the singer-songwriter diving deeper with songs that will no doubt survive the test of time.There is no denying that Luke Bryan is a country boy. Throughout his sixth studio album, aptly titled What Makes You Country, the Georgia native sings about his country roots, among other topics. Co-produced by Jeff and Jody Stevens, What Makes You Country features 15 versatile tracks that vary from love and loss to the power of a song and dreaming big.

“I’ve gotten to follow all my dreams and still remain true to who I am as a person,” Bryan says. “I just try to go in the studio and record music that makes me happy, makes me feel something and makes me emotional at times. Songs that I visualize my crowd reacting to.”

While Bryan includes catchy party songs like “Drinking Again” and “Driving This Thing” on the album, he also digs deep on the poignant “Most People Are Good” and the standout “Land of A Million Songs,” making for a well-rounded release that tugs on the heartstrings. Bryan co-wrote seven of the album’s 15 tracks and whether he’s singing about the life he hopes his sons will have on “Pick It Up” or how to treat a girl on “Like You Say You Do,” Bryan reaffirms exactly why he’s one of the genre’s most sought after artists.

On the title track “What Makes You Country,” Bryan sings of the constant debate of what makes someone country. Is it their boots, the size of their fires or their “wild ass buddies?” As he reminisces of his own days on the farm covered in peanut dust, Bryan explains that country can be found in everything. “You can be a cowboy on the Texas plain / Or a plow boy waitin’ on the rain / We’re all a little different but we’re all the same / Everybody doin’ their own thing,” he sings. “Just be proud of what makes you country.”

Later, he shares his optimistic views on humanity within the lyrics of the powerful “Most People Are Good.” Penned by David Frasier, Ed Hill and Josh Kear, the song’s sweet sentiment has Bryan singing of how he believes kids should stay kids as long as they can and the importance of working hard for what you want in life.

“I believe most people are good / And most mamas oughta qualify for sainthood / I believe most Friday nights look better under neon or stadium lights / I believe you love who you love, ain’t nothin’ you should ever be ashamed of / I believe this world ain’t half as bad as it looks,” he sings on the chorus.

When he’s not offering philosophical views on life, Bryan amps up his sex appeal with songs like the sultry summer jam “Out of Nowhere Girl.” A tale of running into a girl at a bar on a Saturday night, Bryan muses of how she “fell right out of the sky and landed right here tonight” to dance with him. His rhythmic singing style combined with hand snapped beats and soaring guitar licks heat things up. Meanwhile, on “Hungover In a Hotel Room” added harmonies from Emily Weisband light a spark as Bryan croons of a fun night under the sheets that has him considering to extend his hotel stay.

The album’s standout moments include two songs Bryan had a hand in writing, “Land of A Million Songs” and “Pick It Up.” On “Land of A Million Songs” he sings of his move to Nashville in hopes to chase after the songs inside him.

“Everybody’s got a story that needs to be told / And they pray someday they’ll hang a little Gold / And ride back to their hometown with their head held high / On any given day there’s a dream, there’s a chance that lightning will strike at the end of a pen and all of the leaving and losing will all be worth the fight / So you’re always searching for a little something different to say,” he sings. Later, he observes, “Some will come and some will go / If you don’t lay it all out there you’ll never know.”

On “Pick It Up” Bryan is quite literally laying things out for his sons in hopes to guide them in life. Throughout the song, he sings of leaving a fishing rod, Bible, guitar and Ronnie Milsap record in his son’s room. While he doesn’t want to force them to pick these things up, he instead wishes that one day they might find some interest and smile when they think of him.

Six albums into his career, Bryan continues to surprise listeners. While the hip-shaking singer may be best known for his party anthems and dance moves in concert, What Makes You Country has the singer-songwriter diving deeper with songs that will no doubt survive the test of time.

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BradberyAlbum Review - Danielle Bradbery: I Don’t Believe We’ve Met

soundslikenashville.com

Album Review

In Danielle Bradbery’s coming-of-age sophomore album, I Don’t Believe We’ve Met, the 21-year-old vocalist sheds her image of a young The Voice contestant and reintroduces herself as a matured artist ready to share her developed sound with the world.

I Don’t Believe We’ve Met is Bradbery’s first album since her self-titled 2013 debut. Her life has changed drastically since then and her new music reflects that. Most notably, her dive into songwriting comes to life on this project, in which she wrote seven out of the ten tracks.

Throughout the tracklist the Texas-native opens herself to vulnerability. Alongside established Music Row writers, including Nicolle Galyon, Rhett Akins, Heather Morgan and Thomas Rhett, Bradbery forms a cohesive album that explores honest emotions and relationships.

“The making of this new album was a lot and exciting and every emotion you could possibly think of. I got into songwriting and that led to wanting to write about just real stuff and real feelings and situations I was in and I had been in,” she told Sounds Like Nashville during a recent interview.

Bradbery’s sound evolves in this project as well. No longer bounded by traditional country, she experiments with pop and R&B tones to create her own sound. Additionally, Bradbery shows great vocal control and strays away from belting. This results in emotional ballads and raw tracks that continue the theme of vulnerability.

“Potential” is a reflective song that discusses the realization of not being in love with someone, but what they have the potential to be. In a similar heart-wrenching fashion, “Human Diary” captures what it is like to lose a significant other and everything that goes along with it.

“Cause you were my human diary/So when you left you didn’t just leave/No,you took all my secrets with you/You took all my secrets with you/And now you’re with someone else/And thinking ‘bout it hurts like hell,” she croons throughout the chorus.

The struggles of relationships are also put on display in “What Are We Doing” and “Messy,” both of which deal with unfulfilling situations that are a call-to-action to fix the problems or move on.

Though much of the track list contains more mature topics, Bradbery knows how to throw in happy tunes. The breezy lead-single, “Sway,” throws caution to the wind with airy feel-good lyrics. “Hello Summer,” written by labelmate Rhett, is the perfect song to get fans through dreary winter days and will leave them dreaming of summer romance.

Bradbery stands up for herself in bluesy “Worth It,” a girl-power anthem preaching that despite what anyone might say, you’re worth it. “Can’t Stay Mad” is more contrary, when you realize that no matter what your significant other might do, it’s near impossible to stay mad. The easy-listening song is relatable and is one of the album’s standout tracks.

It is obvious Danielle Bradbery took her time with I Don’t Believe We’ve Met with thoughtful lyrics and intentional production. She has grown up immensely since her last album and seems to have started a new and bright chapter in her career.

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Garth BrooksGarth Brooks Beautifully Illustrates Beginning of His Career in Part 1 of ‘The Anthology’

soundslikenashville.com

Album Review

Just like Santa Claus can be counted on to come to the home of all good little boys and girls in the month of December, November for country music fans since the 1990’s usually means something new from Garth Brooks. Whether it be a studio album, box set or Yuletide album (last year, it was all three), Brooks makes a release week special – like nobody before him or since. Well, it’s November, and Brooks has done it again with a five CD collection that showcases his career from 1989-1993. The country superstar offers more than a few unheard versions of some songs that fans have come to know, a beautifully-illustrated and detailed account of the how his career was built and the story behind the recording of each song in the first part of the anthology. It’s the first set in a multi-package plan to showcase Brooks and his music as never before. And, as usual, he hits the mark – right between the eyes.

Disc one takes us back to what we know as the beginnings of Brooks’ career ride, his 1989 self-titled debut album. “Not Counting You,” one of his first singles, and the traditional ballad, “I’ve Got A Good Thing Going,” are presented in the same form as you know them from that first album, as are several of the cuts that introduced Brooks to the country music world. But, what makes the disc – and the set – impressive is the “day write” / demo versions of many of the songs that became classics. “If Tomorrow Never Comes” is one of those songs from the first set, which vocally doesn’t sound much different. If anything, Brooks’ voice is perhaps a step rawer than on the hit version, which became his first number one hit in December of 1989. He also gives fans a taste of the makings of “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old),” which broke him earlier that year. It’s an elementary statement to make, but hearing the demos makes one realize the genius of Allen Reynolds in the production chair – as well as the circle of musicians that made gave Brooks’ recordings a signature sound, especially the fiddle work of Rob Hajacos. Listeners will also get to hear what Brooks heard when he became enamored with Tony Arata’s “The Dance” – the writer’s stark version. It’s a bit of country music history that is well worth the listen.

Disc two takes us inside the making of No Fences, the 1990 album that set Brooks apart from the pack. The day-write of “The Thunder Rolls” sets the tempo for the disc, followed by the brilliantly-executed production of the studio version. The master versions of such Brooks stalwarts as “Victim Of The Game” are included, as well as Arata’s version of “Same Old Story.” Brooks also includes the day-write version of “Unanswered Prayers” as well as a demo of the stone-country “Which One Of Them,” a song that wasn’t heard by the masses until its’ inclusion on a 1998 box set, The Limited Series.

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Shania TwainAlbum Review – Shania Twain: Shania Twain’s “Now”

soundslikenashville.com

Album Review

It has been 15 years since Shania Twain released an album and the music world has been patiently waiting for new music from the country legend. Twain’s new project, Now, proves that some things are worth the wait as the album showcases her talent as both a songwriter and a producer.

For the first time in her career, Twain served as sole songwriter on an album. An ambitious task, the singer wrote each of the 16 tracks as well as co-produced alongside Matthew Koma, Ron Aniello (Bruce Springsteen, Gavin DeGraw), Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes) and Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Norah Jones). Her fifth studio album, Now, also marks the first time since her 1993 self-titled debut that Twain has released a project without the help of producer and ex-husband Mutt Lange.

Her first release following the divorce, Now touches upon the betrayal Twain felt nearly a decade ago when Lange left her for her best friend. Make no mistake, Now is not a divorce album. Instead, it’s a versatile release that encompasses heartache and the happy beginnings of a new relationship as well as celebrates the struggles and successes of Twain’s life. Some of this joy can be heard on the bombastic album opener “Swingin’ with My Eyes Closed.” An ode to summer, the song’s hand-clapped rhythms, distinct reggae vibe and Twain’s familiar vocals keep the listener intrigued.

“Home Now” follows suit and showcases Twain’s folk-rock side. Another triumphant song, it has Twain looking back on a time when she felt lost from a place of renewed hope. “Spoke my heart when I had the mind to / Lost my way trying to find truth / But I’m home now,” she sings on the opening verse. The atmospheric “Light of My Life” continues this positivity as she hints at her struggles following the divorce but chooses to look at the positives in the situation. “I’ve heard people say that if they could / Do it all over again they never would / It’s better to have loved someone and lost / Then, to have never loved at all,” she croons.

Well known for her engaging live show, songs like the energetic “Roll Me On the River” will likely excel on tour with bold percussion and Twain’s sultry vocals while the standout “You Can’t Buy Love” embraces a throwback and soulful feel that brings to mind Amy Winehouse. Meanwhile, the horn-fused “We Got Something They Don’t” ups the ante with infectious beats, a steamy storyline and Twain’s recognizable country-rock sound.

While Twain saw success early on in both the country and pop genres, it’s her vulnerable songwriting that best displays her staying power within the country genre. “Poor Me” is one song that demonstrates this brutal honesty.

“Found it in his closet, right behind the lies / I wish I never saw it, the secret in his eyes / Poor me / He never told me how long, I’d been living in the dark / No one turned the light on, I fell and broke my heart . . . Still can’t believe he’d leave me to love her,” she sings. Later, on “I’m Alright,” Twain tries to convince herself that she’s fine. “I’m alive, I think I’m gonna be okay,” she sings on the ballad with soaring pedal steel and string accompaniment. With newfound confidence, her first album in over a decade, and a tour approaching, Twain is more than okay.

After a decade away from the spotlight, Shania Twain proves herself relevant on Now. A woman who suffered with a great loss, she came back stronger than ever with an album she wrote entirely by herself and with cutting-edge production that reminds the listener exactly why she is the best-selling female artist of all time.

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Eli Young BandAlbum Review – Eli Young Band: Fingerprints

soundslikenashville.com

Album Review

For nearly two decades, Eli Young Band have been sharing their music with the masses. The Texas-based band return to their roots on their fourth major label release Fingerprints, released June 16. Together for 17 years now, Eli Young Band are well aware of who they are as a band and this confidence is showcased throughout their album. Additionally, the band had a hand in writing eight of the album’s 11 tracks which gives the record a more personal feel. Co-produced by Eli Young Band with Ross Copperman and Jeremy Stover, Fingerprints will surely satisfy longtime fans hoping for a return to the sound that made them first fall in love with the country band.

The first single, “Saltwater Gospel,” was just a hint of what’s to come on the release from the Texas act. The feel-good beach spiritual highlights front-man Mike Eli’s warm vocals alongside memorable percussion and striking harmonies as he sings of how he often finds his church at the water’s edge. The title track, “Fingerprints,” follows suit and proves to be a surefire hit in the live setting with gritty guitar parts, Eli’s soaring vocals and a sing along chorus that begs the listener to hit the repeat button.

Well known for their poignant ballads, there is no shortage of songs that hit the heart on Fingerprints. Standout “Skin and Bones” has already made a wave on SiriusXM and it’s easy to see why. Written by Eli, Phil Barton and Lori McKenna about the singer’s wife, Kacey, the song details of how his partner is intertwined throughout every step of his life.

“She’s in my skin and bones / She’s grace and glory / She’s the back roads home / She’s a long story / The one goodbye that I can’t even imagine / She’s a well thought out plan and I don’t know how it happened,” he sings on the track.

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Rascal FlattsAlbum Review – Rascal Flatts: Back to Us

soundslikenashville.com

Album Review

Rascal Flatts return to their roots with their tenth studio album, Back to Us. The country trio are well known for their spot-on harmonies, impressive guitar skills and energetic live show and their latest effort showcases the best of each of these qualities.

Their 10-track album kicks off with lead single, “Yours If You Want It,” which recalls early Rascal Flatts with their sing-along chorus and upbeat music. Other tracks, like the heartbreaking piano-driven “I Know You Won’t,” highlight Gary LeVox’s emotive vocals and brings to mind previous No. 1 hit “What Hurts the Most” with his ability to reel the listener into the lives of the characters within the song.

“I Know You Won’t,” written by Steve McEwan, Wendell Lee Mobley and Neil Thrasher, details a man trying his best to move on from a relationship that appears to be at the end of its lifespan. “I know you don’t mean to be mean to me / ‘Cause when you want to, you can make me feel like we belong,” LeVox sings softly.

Meanwhile, the catchy “Hopin’ You Were Lookin'” portrays the opposite situation as a man finds himself tripping over his feet as he falls for a new girl. Stuck in traffic, the girl has him pulling over to the side of the rode hoping for a chance to talk to her. Written by Dan + Shay with Cary Barlowe and Jesse Frasure, the infectious hand-clapped rhythms and LeVox’s rapid singing style make this a surefire radio hit. “Put your number in my phone / We can be so classic / June and Johnny Cash it,” LeVox sings on the catchy track.

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