Album Review: Kip Moore — Up All Night
With the success of Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert, Eric Church and the like, it was only a matter of time before new outlaws would start to pop up. Kip Moore represents Version 2.0 of the Outlaw Movement (3.0 if you want to go all the way back to the Willie/Waylon Era). The rough edges are a little more polished in this version, the songs are a little more generic, but the bravado, the party lyrics and rural references are all present and accounted for.
Moore is proof that if you mention trucks and homemade wine enough times in your songs, you qualify as a country singer. Up All Night is loaded with electric guitars, with the occasional steel, but the production is more akin to a polished pop record than a rough-around-the-edges rock album. Moore has some grit in his voice, but the amount of mellow songs on the album don’t really give him the chance to use it. “Drive Me Crazy,” co-written with Thompson Square’s Keifer Thompson, is one of the few times where he really gets to cut loose vocally. It’s one of the album’s highlights.
Eric Church would be the obvious point of reference for Moore. He attempts Church’s bravado in “Reckless (Still Growin’ Up),” where he drinks, smokes pot and threatens to shove something up a record producer’s ass (switching Moore’s baseball cap for a cowboy hat is interfering with his artistic vision, apparently), but it still comes across as inferior to Church’s “Drink in My Hand” or “Smoke a Little Smoke.” “Hey Pretty Girl,” meanwhile, sounds more like a Bruce Springsteen song (specifically, “I’m on Fire”) than Church’s “Springsteen.”
The better tracks on the album deviate from the outlaw formula. Despite the “Amazing Grace” snippet at the beginning of the song, “Faith When I Fall” is more spiritual than religious, and it’s Moore’s best vocal performance. “Everything But You,” about about a post-breakup life, has enough creative details to give it some authenticity.
Moore’s debut single, “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck,” is a certified hit but does have the distinction of being one of the weakest songs of 2012. Take all of the cliche-ridden songs from Luke Bryan and Justin Moore, break them down to their basic elements – truck, beer, hot girl, sex – and you have “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck.” This song is so country that it requires two apostrophes. Still, without any substantial narrative, it ends up being less of a song and more of a spreadsheet containing all the buzzwords required to have a hit on country radio today.
That’s the problem with Up All Night as a whole. It comes across more as a very calculated marketing effort than an organic body of work. It’s a perfectly acceptable product that is precisely manufactured to appeal to fans of Aldean, Justin Moore, Church and others who would call themselves “outlaws.” There are a few rowdy songs about drinking and partying but enough tender ballads to appeal to every demographic. There are country references galore – Johnny Cash gets name-checked, naturally – but the songs themselves are pop- or rock-oriented to keep things from sounding too “country.” There’s nothing offensive about the album, but there’s also nothing terribly original either.
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