Album Review: Jake Owen – Easy Does It

Pierce Greenberg | February 17th, 2009

Jake Owen - Easy Does ItJake Owen burst on to the scene, in 2006, as a founding member of the frat boy movement of new male country artists, alongside fellow pledges Eric Church, Jason Michael Carroll, and Luke Bryan. With perfectly groomed hair and just enough stubble to prove their manliness, these guys provide bar-friendly music with a tinge of radio sentimentalism–a fact which makes Owen’s sophomore album, Easy Does It, anything but unexpected.

Easy Does It perfectly follows the typical formula, with a healthy dose of fist-pumping, beer-raising anthems and female-flocking contemporary country slow jams. The concept of the album and the themes of the songs are mostly recycled, which makes for another average collection of tunes.

The most disappointing part of the album stems from the potential that Owen displays on the opening track, “Tell Me.” Here, he bucks the stale trends that define the bulk of the album and really shines on what is an almost alt-sounding track.

Unfortunately, Owen fails to rise to the bar he sets with “Tell Me.” Aside from the inexplicable re-cut of the overly loud “Eight Second Ride,” there’s little here that could be considered downright awful, but neither is there anything particularly outstanding. Take for instance, the nonchalant “Who Said Whiskey.” Somewhat clever and relatively fun, it simply isn’t very memorable. “Green Bananas” isn’t bad either, but on the whole Owen’s philosophical outlook isn’t especially substantial.

But deep-rooted philosophical musings are not necessarily what Owen’s audience craves, and Easy Does It makes it clear that the singer has a solid grasp on his fan base–and there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, one of the most influential business books of the last decade, Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail, details how (in theory) the music business is changing from a hit-driven market to a niche-driven market. As a mainstream country artist with several top 15 singles under his belt, Owen may not seem like a niche artist, but the sameness that pervades Easy Does It implies that he’s targeting a specific group of fans who embrace a relatively predictable artistic spectrum.

A solid vocalist, good songwriter and all-around decent artist, Owen is likely to be hitting up the bar and county fair circuit this summer while promoting yet another mid-level hit—most likely the radio-friendly, “Every Reason I Go Back.” Unfortunately, “solid,” “good,” and “decent” are much more fitting descriptions for Owen’s music than “interesting,” “innovative,” and “refreshing.”

2.5 Stars

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  1. Karlie
    February 17, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Great review Pierce. For the life of me, I can never remember who is who between Jake Owen, Luke Bryan and Eric Church…probably for all of the reasons you name here.

  2. Jim Malec
    February 17, 2009 at 9:41 am

    What really disappoints me about Owen is that he could do so much with that voice. On the cover of this album he’s wearing a shirt with a certain legend on it, but he aspires to none of the creative greatness of that legend.

    I think Pierce’s allusion to The Long Tail is an apt one, and demonstrates part of what’s broken about the model as stands–major labels, being as bloated as they are, are essentially forced to target the mainstream. But the mainstream grows more diluted by the day, because the internet drives niche consumption.

    Owen has to try to appeal to that target audience, because RCA isn’t going to be happy if he’s pushing 4,000k units a week. Contrast that to Sugar Hill’s situation with Joey + Rory, were they’re doing 7,000+ and having a great deal of success.

  3. Zach
    February 17, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Listened to it this weekend agree 100 percent with the review. Nice work.

  4. Kelly
    February 17, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Did he cover Chris Ledoux’s “8 Second Ride”?? If you tell me yes, I am afraid that I will be forced to challenge Mr. Owen to a fight right here, right now….

  5. CMW
    February 17, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Excellent review, Pierce. I agree with Jim that the most disappointing thing about Owen is that he has the voice to do something really great but seems hellbent on squandering it on the most trivial songs he can find.

  6. Dan Milliken
    February 17, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    I’ll join the choir on the quality of this review and Owen’s as-yet wasted potential. Even on the pap he currently records, there are moments where the combination of his tone and phrasing is simply gorgeous. I’m not sure exactly what sort of country his singing would be best suited to, but I hope he starts thinking about finding an individual sound for himself instead of just trying to be a superstar headliner.

  7. Bonnie
    February 17, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    I’m afraid that I have to disagree. Jake Owen is one of the best new artist out there. At least he doesn’t sing this pop-country crap,like Carrie Underwood, that everybody seems to enjoy. And you may think that I’m just a disgruntled fan,and you’d be right to say that I think your review is unfair and you sound like someone who is jealous of Jake Owen, but the reality is that I know more about the industry than you think and I’m currently studying to get my a degree in music business. I will say however that “Nothing Grows in the Shadows” is not my favorite song and the bagpipes are out of place but that’s my opinion and he didn’t even write that song. Overall, the cd is great,just like his debut cd “Startin’ With Me”. His vocals are amazing. Jake knows,once again,in my opinion exactly who he is. He’s found his niche, how is that a bad thing? I would rather have an artist who knows who he is and how to market himself, than one who just strives to make a hit and doesn’t stay true to himself. Clearly, you have never seen his live show.

    And Kelley, no he didn’t cover Chris Ledoux’s “Eight Second Ride”. And yes, Joey + Rory are doing well right now but the newness has already worn off, but Jake’s fan base has continued to grow larger and more diverse.

  8. Pierce
    February 17, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Bonnie, I agree with most of what you said.

    I do really like Owen’s voice, and I think he has found a niche, and does know how to market himself.

    Is that a bad thing? Not bad, but not good considering he would have a lot more potential outside of just giving his fans what they want to hear.

    I have seen his live show – once on the Chesney tour back when I was in high school, and once last year. He was enjoyable. He was energetic, vocals were just fine, and the show was good. I didn’t go home gushing over his performance, but there was nothing wrong with it.

    Same with his album material. I didn’t dislike it. I didn’t cringe when I listened to it. And most of the stuff was decent.

    I agree about “Nothin’ Grows in Shadows” too. That one threw for me a loop, but that woulda just opened a whole other can of worms. Ya gotta choose your battles sometimes.

  9. Rick
    February 17, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Jake is a talented guy who desperately needs to develop a recognizable style and either write or source stronger material. Come to think of it, that describes a lot of Top 40 country radio newcomers over the last few years.

    There was a really interesting article on Jake in Country Weekly awhile back and he has self-confidence that seems to cross over into arrogance territory. The reason I say this is that if he thinks too highly of his musical output compared to objective reality (say reviews at The 9513 for instance), then he will settle for songs that may not do much to further his career. Jake may think his new music is “Going Big” when it is not really going anywhere. On the other hand he has found his niche with fans like Bonnie, and as long as his audience keeps growing he can do okay for himself.

    I’m still amazed that “Yee Haw” didn’t become a # 1 Top 40 country radio hit as it was one of the catchiest singles I’ve heard this decade and I still love that song. If that song had been done by any male artist that was already a Top 20 favorite, it would have been a hit. Oh well…..

  10. scooter
    February 17, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    I will be buying this album and I am for the most part very impressed with Jake Owen. I discovered him when I saw him open up for Sugarland a couple of years ago, and his ability to put on a good show and get the crowd into it is one of his strong points. I also enjoyed several of the songs off the first album. “The Bottle and me” and “yee haw” come to mind.

  11. Noah Eaton
    February 18, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    A most eloquent, as well as well-balanced review that acknowledges Owen’s true potential but also demonstrates how he could have so much more to offer than he is.

    I like Jake Owen, and I think he has the potential to be a standout contemporary country artist if he can only find/write a stronger, more poignant collection of songs that allow him to express the wider reaches of his voice and tap into some deeper wells of musical truth, even if he ultimately chooses to play the middle of the road structurally with his music.

    Alas, for now there’s much left desired here, but I’m optimistic most of his best days have yet to unfurl.

    Noah Eaton

  12. Kim
    February 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    I really like Jake and his music and hope one day he will reach his full potential. In fairness, did all of these “legends” of country music get perfectly the first or second album? or are their legacies that we compare the work of up and comings to the culmination of years and years of hard work and development? For the most part, I’m going with the years of hard work. He’s young fun, and writes his own. I would put him way above Eric Church too. Luke Bryan is ok, but not as much fun. Jake is at least on the right track. At least he’s not part of the over-promoted, much to-do about not much talent crowd.

  13. Chris J
    February 26, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    His album is the best glad myspace has it so I don’t to buy it, in spite of a not great album, I do like the songs, Tell Me, Green Bananas and anything for you

  14. Occasional Hope
    February 28, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Jake Owen joins the club of current male country artists to diapooint with his latest release. It’s OK, but that’s all. I did quite like Green Bananas and Tell Me, but none of the other tracks stand out. His first album held quite a lot of promise, with two excellent tracks in Startin’ With Me and Ghosts.

  15. Caleb Stempel
    March 25, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    I can’t disagree with this article enough. I think that not only does Jake Owen bring heart and soul into this album, but he takes the “usual” topics and puts a great spin on them. From “Cherry on Top” which consists of good lyrics with even better supporting music, then “Nothing Grows in Shadows” throws in some bagpipes at the end of the song, all well relaying the message that nothing grows in shadows, don’t stand in others sun. “Don’t Think I Can’t love You” is a great lead of track, speaking for every man who can’t give his girl the money she may want, but will always have to love for her she needs. “Who Said Whiskey” is a fun track that takes the usual drink to help a man forget about the one he longs for, to make it the drink that helps a man the luckiest man with a girl that gets “as hot as it gets”. “Green Bananas” is another amazing song. The idea of not having tomorrow isn’t a new idea, but the lyrics convey a new way to put it. When you look at all the great tracks on this album you see that though the ideas may not be new (kind of hard to come up with in the year 2009, a new idea we haven’t already heard) but he puts a great new spin on them and makes them almost his own ideas in his own way

  16. Drew
    March 26, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    I will say that this album has grown on me some. “Anything For You” is a great song, and is a sure-fire Top 10, so I hope that gets put out as a single.

  17. Tiffany
    July 3, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    For the people saying giving his fans what they want is a bad thing that makes no sense. His fans are the ones that attend his shows, buy his music and support him. He understands this unlike many artists today who do what they want without taking into consideration what their fans like. I know that most people do judge an artist on their albums but you need to see them live to truly know if you like their music. Jake writes new songs all the time and he will throw them into his shows and if the crowd likes it he will play it again…if not he just brushes it off and tries something else. Check him out on youtube and you will see songs like Somewhere in the Middle and Knock Yourself Out and Damn. Seeing him live is totally different than his albums. You just get a taste of him in the albums rather than the full Jake experience at shows. Also, unlike other artists he sounds just as good if not better in person than some pop-country artist wanna-bes out there. Before you judge him check out a live performance and I am telling you it is a whole other experience. And arrogant he is not, a couple days ago he was in my hometown and was riding his triski around and let my cousin try it out and he is the most down to earth and genuine person I have ever met. Give him a chance before you judge him though!

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