08 December 2017 (released)
08 December 2017
Today marks the release of Luke Bryan's What Makes You Country, an album with a title that reflects the changing tide and trends of the US country scene. With bro country now pretty much over and the resurrection of both Outlaw and Trad scenes, the Country world is swarming with its most diverse talent to date. While many who are not familiar with the new wave of Country would not categorise the likes of Maren Morris, Sam Hunt and Kane Brown in that box upon just hearing a song or two, perhaps the most radically repackaged sound of recent years has arrived in the shape of Walker Hayes' boom.
With his first attempt for Country stardom, with the singles Pants (2010) and What Wait For Summer (2011) having misfired, many had consigned the songwriter to the bestter best forgotten box. However there was one firm believer who felt Walker had what it took. Shane McAnally is one of the most prolific producers and songwriters in Nashville at the moment, and with his determination and belief, Walker has finally taken centre stage once again.
However with a sound that echoes Jason Mraz's 2002 debut Waiting For My Rocket To Come mixed with Shawn Mullins' 1998 break-out release Soul's Core, the Country credentials are hard to see outside of the producer's more prominent credits and the performer's past releases. But in an age where the boundaries of country are being passed recognition, the team behind Walker clearly feel the Country branding suits and what is more important is to focus on the strength of music contained within boom.
Although the subject often jars with the real life story of the 37 year old father of 6, it is most definitely worthy of the radio success it has been enjoying. These may not be life changing listens, but they certainly keep you entertained in the short term.
With the irrepressible talk-along You Broke Up With Me and shoulder shaker Beckett proving real highlights, the album does suffer from following too rigid a formula. Opener Beautiful suffers from weak lyrics and a far too faithful attempt at replicating Taylor Swift's knack for the one-note melody. But it is the bland Beer In The Fridge that offers the album's most regrettable inclusion.
Overall boom. is a pretty easy listen and will certainly keep you entertained, with more hum-a-long positives than there are formulaic negatives. Whether Walker can turn this radio appeal into a long-term career remains to be seen, but there are a couple of cuts that will no doubt dominate airwaves over the coming months.
Luke Bryan asks What Makes You Country, and on the evidence of the new release from the one of Country world's most hyped artists of the moment, it is more about branding the musical content. boom. is not a bad album, but it is one that will appeal more to the mainstream pop fan than the Country traditionalist.