Album Review: Jerrod Niemann — Free the Music

Sam Gazdziak | November 13th, 2012

jerrodniemannfreethemusicJerrod Niemann’s Free the Music is half the album that his major label debut release was. Specifically, the music half. Judge Jerrod and the Hung Jury infamously featured “humorous” skits in between the songs that grew tiresome after about three listens. This time around, the skits are gone, and all that’s left is a genre-bouncing collection of songs that solidifies his place as one of the biggest risk-takers in Nashville today.

After the album opens with the funky title track/mission statement, Niemann slides from traditional country to pure pop, with a little bit of Dixieland jazz thrown in for good measure. Niemann’s versatility makes for an entertaining record – “Real Women Drink Beer,” as the title suggests, is goofy fun, while “Whiskey Kind of Way” is a classic barroom weeper that is all too rarely heard these days. His pop compositions like “Only God Could Love You More” and “Guessing Games” are among the weaker songs. The slick arrangements sound plain when compared to the rest of the album, and the songs themselves lack the left-of-center personality that is apparent in some of his other tunes.

Much more intriguing are the horn-drenched numbers, including “Honky Tonk Fever” and “Fraction of a Man.” Now that “drums-bass-keyboards-3 electric guitar players” has been established as the typical country band lineup (fiddle and steel guitar optional but not preferred), the use of a horn section throughout the album is a pleasant change of pace. The aforementioned two songs were enjoyable, lighthearted tunes, but the addition of the horns in the mix take them to a new level. When he combines all his influences into a polished contemporary country gem like “Shinin’ on Me,” Niemann is at his best.

Despite the fact that neither of Niemann’s two albums cound be described as “conventional,” he’s still managed several hit songs in a format that’s becoming more and more restrictive every year. While a multi-faceted album like Free the Music shows both his strong and weak points, it’s one of the most interesting albums of the year.

3.5 Stars

Preview or purchase Free the Music

  1. Jonathan Pappalardo
    November 13, 2012 at 8:43 am

    I still haven’t been able to warm up to “Only God Could Love You More” despite it being the second single. The fans seem to love it, and the track got some early buzz. I don’t care for the structureof it.

    I do, however, love “Guessing Games.” it has a Chris Issack vibe that I’m really digging. It isn’t the most country, but that doesn’t matter to me.

    A part from my own review on My Kind Of Country, I haven’t heard many people talking about this album. Thanks for tackling it, Sam. I’ve so wanted to see what others thought. It has strange moments for sure, but there are some excellent tracks to be found here like “Whiskey Kinda Way” and “It Don’t Matter Anymore.”

  2. Ben Foster
    November 13, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Neither of the two singles have done it for me so far, but now I’m thinking I’ll definitely have to give the full album a listen.

  3. Mattb
    November 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    This is one of the more unique records in Nashville and he takes that horn section out on tour with him. It’s a hard sell for radio but if he can do it, he may have a niche all to himself for at least a little while.

  4. Julie Harris
    November 13, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Free The Music Album is the “Hottest Album” out there. The variety of songs and lyrics are Awesome. If you listen to the album , you will find that “Shining On Me” is a
    mellow song and “Honkey Tonk Fever” is truly Honkey Tonk Music. “Only God Could Love You More” New Single, is a Great Song with the most awesome music. The horn section is as fine as it gets! Adding the horns to the songs, makes this one of the most unique albums out there of its kind. Watching Jerrod Niemann live in concern is something you need to see. When he sings and the band plays they blow the roof off the place. Thumbs up to “Free The Music!”!!! Great music for all listeners!

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