Album Review: Easton Corbin – Easton Corbin
At the end of 2009, I offered up an argument that traditional country music would make a mainstream comeback in 2010, on the heels of artists such as Jamey Johnson, Chris Young and Ashton Shepherd.
Today, I produce Easton Corbin’s self-titled debut from Mercury Nashville as Exhibit A of this turning tide.
Despite sometimes sharing the been there, done that liability of its lead-off single (and Top 10 hit) “A Little More Country Than That,” Easton Corbin successfully stands miles apart from current radio fare with nary an electric guitar riff, rock and roll drums solo or cacophonous chorus.
More importantly, however, its neo-traditionalist production choices–combined with the singer’s near-perfect blend of the vocalists who made that movement popular–sound modern, fresh and mainstream-friendly.
The album’s easy, natural feel is due in no small part to producer–and former steel guitarist and bandleader for Keith Whitley–Carson Chamberlain, who deserves credit for packing the most steel on a mainstream album release since Jamey Johnson’s That Lonesome Song, albeit to a much different result. While Johnson capitalized on the instrument’s mournful undertones, Corbin uses it to champion his exuberant grasp on country music.
That excitement is the basis of songs such as the jaunty, vintage Alan Jackson “The Way Love Looks,” and travel tune “This Far From Memphis,” which scores the record’s best line “Now I’ve run out of road/So I guess my only hope is to trade this truck for a boat.”
But even when Corbin is down and out on heartbreak songs like the album’s best tune “Leavin’ a Lonely Town,” he is able to instantly inject listeners into the who, what, when and where of heartbreak: “Mama’s standing at the old screen door, with a dishrag in her hand/Crying like I never seen her cry before…/My old man is working on his truck/Ain’t never had much to say/Just shakes my hand and wishes me luck and watches me walk away/Yeah, I’m leavin’ a lonely town.”
Despite these strengths, at times Easton Corbin is an example of the sum being greater than the parts. Kenny Chesney cheese-fest “A Lot to Learn About Livin’” and semi-saccharine “Someday When I’m Old” would simply wither sans Corbin’s natural charm, while “That’ll Make You Wanna Drink” will simply, well, make you want to drink.
While these songs don’t reach the level of detail, emotion and connection as most on the album, the strong thread of charismatic artistry that runs from Track 1 to Track 11 largely neutralizes its dead weight.
Corbin, who owns four co-writes in the collection, will struggle to overcome the label of “the guy that sounds just like Strait.” However, in terms of self-identification, he’s off to a good start: Despite the bravado suggested by the Florida native’s lead-off single, this album never tries too hard to be anything it’s not, and why should it–Easton Corbin is a debut effort by an artist with incredible promise to be a potential game changer in the country music genre.
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