Country Music People May 2019 - Page 44

albumreviews AUSTIN JENCKES If You Grew Up Like I Did THOMAS RHETT Center Point Road   We Made / Never Forget / American Nights / Fat Kid / Bet You’d Look Good / Never Left Memphis / If You’d Been Around / There’s A Song / Ride Away Producer: not listed Red Dot 31:30 Up / Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time (ft Little Big Town) / Blessed / Look What God Gave Her / Center Point Road (ft Kelsea Ballerini) / That Old Truck / VHS / Notice / Sand / Beer Can’t Fix (ft Jon Pardi) / Things You Do For Love / Remember You Young / Don’t Stop Drivin’ / Barefoot / Dream You Never Had / Almost Producers: Julian Bunetta, Dann Huff & Thomas Rhett Big Machine 48:00 If you fancy a pizza and some live music you might want to think about heading to High Holborn’s Pizza Express on May 29 when Austin Jenckes is playing as part of their monthly Nashville Meets London Presents, especially if you favour rootsy modern country with a heavy Springsteen influence, especially on American Nights. If You Grew Up Like I Did is Jenckes’ debut and the title goes some way to explaining why he sounds like he does. The title comes from a line in the album’s most notable track, Fat Kid. Sonically it could have been an Eric Church record and it boasts Lori McKenna on the writing credits. It suggests that life is “like high school sometimes” not always easy for “the fat kid.” It’s made for a modern audience and its anthemic qualities should delight many modern country fans. It will also no doubt be praised for the quality of its story-telling and whilst it is an outside song Jenckes says he can relate to every character in it. Equally rocking is Bet You’d Look Good In It, which is an equally well-written song delivered in what quickly becomes apparent, is Jenckes’ gruffly passionate vocals. One of the things he bets you’d look good in is an old Willie Nelson t-shirt. I actually preferred Austin Jenckes on the more laidback If You’d Been Around and There’s A Song (which sounds like a hit) where the soulfulness of his vocals could really shine, but his best performance is possibly on the soulfully on-trend Never Forget. From a background in which his parents divorced when he was 13 with his father taking his own life three years later, to the writing rooms of Nashville and a spot on The Voice, Jenckes says, “all I can do is focus on telling my story.” He is doing that, and if you are in the mood for some stories wrapped up in a sound somewhere between Church and Combs he might be the man for you. How he can fit into an increasingly crowded marketplace is another matter. Alex Rossi 44 cmp - MAY 2019 His dad may well have “Braked for brunettes, blondes and Corvettes” and gone on to have quite a career as a hit songwriter but when it comes to Thomas Rhett I’ve always had the feeling he’d rather be Michael Bublé than George Jones. This time out though he’d rather be Bruno Mars, and in case you think I’m kidding go and listen to Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time. One thing’s for sure, Thomas Rhett isn’t in any danger of threatening us with any country music. This is pop with a capital P. It also thinks it’s some kind of blue- eyed 80’s Haircut 100 meets Stephen Tin Tin Duffy soul on the overly contrived VHS. Here VHS stands for “very hot summer” but somebody thought they were being really clever with the retro “VHS” reference. They weren’t. The only moment you could really loosely call country is That Old Truck, but even that ought to have been way more country than this. The main problem is that the majority of this record is the most bland, diluted, made-by-numbers, badly written, soggy lump of white bread nonsense you’re ever likely to hear this side of a spotty teen on the X-Factor. The Kelsea Ballerini track is just plain horrible, and you’d have to go some way to find a record as bad as Things You Do For Love. Remember The Young thinks it’s really weighty and deep, it isn’t, and if in doubt give it some “whaoos”. There are some decent pop songs – Sand is nice, and could have been really good in some genuine RnB hands, Beer Can’t Fix is catchy and I genuinely really liked the wannabe RnB of Blessed – but there aren’t nearly enough of them to make this an even halfway decent pop album. I don’t care who you are telling me this is ‘country’ and ‘I’d better get with the times’, this is not country in any way whatsoever. The thing is, that’s fine, just stop trying to convince us that the freakin’ emperor isn’t stark-bollock naked. There are three tracks I wouldn’t mind hearing again but they’re sure as hell not country. I can’t shake the feeling that Thomas Rhett is taking the piss. Duncan Warwick