Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Album Review: Chase Rice - Dirt Road Communion

If the name Chase Rice sounds familiar in your household, chances are it is not for Country music, but it should be.  If the name sounds familiar, it is likely because the young North Carolina native placed second on "Survivor: Nicaragua", the shows twenty-first season.  Rice has just released his first full-length album, a follow up to his EP, "Country As Me".

Dirt Road Communion - The title track, "Communion" follows a familiar country path, reminiscing about growing up on the dirt roads back home.  With a sound that falls somewhere between Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert,  with a little Lee Brice thrown in for good measure.  The formula works, providing a rocking song that is likely to get attention for the newcomer.

How She Rolls - Keeping the pace up, Rice gives a rocking tribute to his woman.  Sounding a lot like Matt Kennon ("The Call"), Chase describes everything about this country girl: "My baby's a hands in the air/ Don't have a care/ When her songs on the radio/ A little crazy with a blue-jean tear/ Gets a Ray-Ban stare/ Just about everywhere we go/ She likes to get down/ Sippin on Coke and Crown/ Jesus and Gypsie Soul/ Yeah that's how she rocks/ That's how she rolls"

The Little Things - Another tribute to his woman, Rice slows this one down with a short love song about what is truly important to her.  "No she doesn't need/ A four-carat diamond ring/ Or a big house to come home to/ No she doesn't need/ A Hollywood movie scene/ Or a sunset every day in Malibu/ No all she needs/ Are the little things".  Rice mentions what those little things are, roses just because it is Tuesday, watching "The Bachelor" every Monday, and letting her drive his truck (even after previous mishaps). You can almost see the singer with a grin on his face as he sings.

Pbj's and Pbr's - Rice returns to what he does best, rocking.  "Pbj's & Pbr's" is him reminiscing about his college days, being broke, barely making it to class (if they went at all).  Chase even includes a shout out to another country singer: "That Sigma Ki gig every other Thursday/ Wouldn't make a penny, but we tried to play/ We cut a song for all of them college honeys/ Give ole Luke Bryan a run for his money".  The title refers to the diet of a college student-musician.

Whoa - A change of pace for the Carolina singer, the heavy bass beat in the beginning leads to the inevitable rap verse near the end of the song.  "Whoa" is simply the reaction Rice has to seeing a beautiful girl.  Thankfully, the rap does not feel out of place and he pulls it off without sounding forced.  "Whoa" is a song that will probably not get a lot of playtime, but is definitely catchy.

Room 205 - Every once in a while a song comes around that is so deep, and tells such a story, that you have to listen to it a few times to gather what is going on.  This is that song for Chase Rice.  The song is told from the perspective of a motel room that has seen a lot of things.  I really do not want to go into detail, it is better to just let you listen and take it in for yourselves.

Pop A Top Off (Good Time On) - Returning back to the idea of partying and drinking, Rice sings from the perspective of the singer on stage of a concert.  Quite obviously fitted to be the opening song for his concerts, the guitar in the last third really stands out.

Shades Of Green - A song about the struggling economy and being thankful for what you have and where you are from, "Shades of Green" is familiar without being repetitive.  The song is about exactly what the title says, the different greens in life that are more important than money.  "It's the color of the tractor in my barn/ A fifty acre pasture old horse farm/ And rows of pines as far as I can see/ It ain't the money in the bank that we ain't got".

You Ain't Livin ' Yet - This song follows in the tradition of "Shades of Green" in theme.  "You Ain't Livin' Yet" is about the large difference between "livin'" to a city boy and "livin'" to a country boy.  Once again, Rice does a good job of avoiding the same song that every other country makes, while sticking to the same ideas as Josh Thompson's "Ain't Seen Country Yet" and Jason Aldean's "Country Boy's World"

Country Boy's Kryptonite - The title should give away what the song is about.  Every country boy is a sucker for a hot country girl.  We just cannot get enough.  He does not stick just to the women though, the second verse dives into muddin' and NASCAR.  "I can't resist it, I'm addicted/ Even Superman would lose this fight/ Yeah, and all of this, is my weakness/ It's all a country boy's kryptonite"

Every Song I Sing - Every song has a story behind it, and more often than not, it involves a woman.  The first song on "Dirt Road Communion" that actually involves a breakup, it is also probably the one filled with the most emotion on the album.  This is probably one of my favorites simply because it feels the most vulnerable.

Only A Country Girl - After my favorite track, "Country Girl" is probably my least favorite on the album.  It is not that it is a bad song, but it just feels a bit cookie cutter.  Jeff Bates immediately comes to mind when I hear this song about how special a country girl is.

I Like Drinking, Cause It's Fun - This one might be my new anthem.  Sometimes you do not need a reason to be drinking.  Sometimes you do not have a heartbreak, or a hard day at work.  You just want to drink "Cause it's fun!".  Does not matter if it is beer, tequila or wine, drinking is just fun.

Shakin' The Wheels - This fast tune contrasts nicely with the idea of a truck not actually going anywhere, but the couple in the song sure are moving fast.  The instrumentals nearly overpower the lyrics, but it works with the content of the song.

Jack Daniel's & Jesus - Another raw, vulnerable track.  Chase pours his heart out about being lost in life, much in the vein of Brantley Gilbert's "Modern Day Prodigal Son".  This purity places this just above "Every Song I Sing" because I have lived there.  In fact, you would be hard pressed to find someone who has not.  If there were only one track to listen to on this entire album, this one would be it.  It is hard not to be moved by Rice's honesty.

Happy Hour(Worktape) - Wrapping up the album with a track that was unedited, Chase sits down with just his acoustic guitar, lamenting on being stuck in the same routine, just without the girl he used to enjoy it with.  He swears he is never coming back, the memories are just too rough, but he has said that before.  "I guess Happy Hour/ Ain't so happy without her" Rice sings in the chorus.  After a short silent period (and maybe a few drinks) his mood picks up.  The girl walks in and asks if she can join him.  He plays along for about a second, then tells her to kiss his ass.  He definitely ends it with a upbeat take on the heartbreak, wrapping the album up nicely.

"Dirt Road Communion" is Rice's first attempt at a full-length album, and he does not disappoint.  He recorded this album without a label and without radio support, but you would never guess it listening to it.  Chase is not a household name, but if he keeps putting music out like this, he will be in no time.  8.5/10

This album is available through Amazon MP3 and iTunes.  You can follow Chase Rice on Twitter

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Album Review: Luke Bryan - Spring Break 4... Suntan City

About this time every year, Luke Bryan releases a short, four song EP of party songs.  Many of these songs are ones that Bryan admits would never get much radio play, but he enjoys making them and the freedom he gets without the pressures from the record label.  2012 brings us the fourth iteration of the series, "Suntan City".  Previous "Spring Break" EPs have brought us such songs as "I'm Hungover", "Wild Weekend" and "It's A Shore Thing".

Suntan City - Bryan kicks of the EP with the best track on the album, the title track "Suntan City".  This one really sets the mood, talking about how people from all over the country head to the beach during Spring Break for a week or so of partying.  "Hey there cutie with the Kentucky coozie/ Have you ever hung with a Georgia Boy?/ Why don't you and your friends ease on over here/ and chug a beer with Miss Illinois".  Easily the strongest track on the album.

Spring Break-Up - Following up with a song about Spring Break promiscuity, Luke talks about moving on from one girl while trying to pick up another.  Problem is, the first one is not getting the message.  Bryan tries to tell her that there should be no hard feelings, but he "Don't need (her) number/ Don't wanna be (her) Facebook friend".

Little Bit Later On - Definitely a goofy song, this is one of the songs that Bryan was talking about when he said they are not necessarily recording for radio.  Much of the song is spoken rather than sung, as the Spring Breakers work on trying to make plans for the night.

Shake the Sand Off the Sheets - The only slow song on the EP, "Shake the Sand Off the Sheets" is a love song, talking about getting ready to climb into bed together.  The romantic tone definitely highlights Bryan voice, which allows it to fit nicely without feeling out of place on the party album.

While "Suntan City" is not the best of the Spring Break EPs Luke Bryan has released, it definitely holds its own and accomplishes what it set out to do.  The party EP has enough good tunes to satisfy fans and bridge the gap between "Tailgates and Tanlines" and whatever project Bryan releases next.  At only about $3.50 for the four tracks, it is definitely worth the money.  7.5/10

This album was purchased from the Google Play store.  It can also be found on Amazon and iTunes