Album Review: Randy Houser – Anything Goes

Brady Vercher | November 20th, 2008

Randy Houser - Anything Goes With his surprising debut single “Anything Goes,” which is currently sittin’ pretty at #18 on Billboard, Randy Houser showed a lot of promise. The subject of the song, predicated on the idea that the narrator’s moral compass relies on the presence of the love he lost, is similar in theme to Jamey Johnson’s “Mary Go Round,” only from a slightly different perspective. It’s real strength, however, lies in the believability of Houser’s vocal, which bears a strong resemblance to Ronnie Dunn with shades of Blake Shelton.

Like I said, though, that single hinted at great things to come, but Houser throws a rope-a-dope with the opening track on Anything Goes, and lets us know he’d rather shun his true talent and rock out instead. For someone who already receives comparisons to Dunn, “Boots On” treads familiar territory about a hard workin’ man looking for a good time.

Likewise, the other rockers on the album don’t have much to offer, instead settling for validating Houser’s country cred. They’re designed to play alongside “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” by non-discerning listeners who want something to party to, despite Houser’s claims that he wouldn’t record a song like the polarizing Adkins cut.

As a whole, the album is fairly diverse, both stylistically and content-wise, which doesn’t exactly make for the best top-to-bottom listening experience. Aside from the rompers, there’s a talking number, a sensitive acoustic song, some ill-conceived falsettos, and a couple of soulful tunes. And amongst the lying, cheating, drinking, and sleeping around is a spiritual song, but considering the majority of the content, “Back To God” comes across as insincere and clocking in at over five minutes, the sermon lasts a little too long. It would actually be a moving song if it featured a softer production style and axed the guitar solo.

One song, “Strange,” serves as an apt description of slow-tempo “How Many Times.” Backed by a piano and Vince Gill with harmony vocals, it’s one of the soulful cuts and is well executed, but it awkwardly ponders how many times you can do a woman wrong before she leaves. It really is a bizarre cut that fails to invoke feelings of empathy for the narrator, but calls into question his aptitude instead.

Other than the title track, the highlights include the final track, “I’ll Sleep,” and “Lie,” which, when considered togther, highlight the discord of the album as a whole. The former song was written after Houser’s father died and is a loving remembrance of him while “Lie,” a talking story number in the vein of a Ray Scott tune, semi-humorously–or offensively, depending on your perception–discusses lying to women to sleep with them.

The themes on Anything Goes are atypical to contemporary country music, which would be a refreshing change of pace, but too often the songs settle for being different instead of superior. Randy Houser shows flashes of brilliance, but as demonstrated by his debut album, he lacks focus and needs to quit occupying the same territory as acts like Dunn and Toby Keith at their worst.

2.5 Stars

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  1. [...] Randy Houser - Anything Goes The themes on Anything Goes are atypical to contemporary country music, which would be a refreshing change of pace, but too often the songs settle for being different instead of superior. Randy Houser shows flashes of brilliance, but as demonstrated by his debut album, he lacks focus and needs to quit occupying the same territory as acts like Dunn and Toby Keith at their worst. — Brady Vercher [...]
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  1. Drew
    November 20, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Like I’ve already stated, I was looking forward to this album after hearing “Anything Goes”, but it was just a huge letdown. I really hope somebody tells him to stick to the ballads, because the other stuff is just not good music.

  2. Rick
    November 20, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Man you’re tough, Brady! I rate this album at 3.5 on the Chris Neal “Country Weekly” scale, meaning “It’s okay, not great, not horrible”. I like the style and feel of the slower cuts and find the rompers to be radio ready generic songs. In fact Randy should have given the uptempo songs to Ronnie Dunn and Trace Adkins and concentrated on the more soulful and bluesy songs where his vocals shine. Potential buyers expecting an album full of gems like “Anything Goes” (like me) will be disappointed, but its still an okay (there’s that word again) first effort.

  3. Stormy
    November 20, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Uh-oh–his street team is going to freak.

  4. Pierce
    November 20, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Boo. I had high hopes for Houser. I guess I’ll put off buying this album…

    Oh well! Another one bites the dust…

  5. CMW
    November 20, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    This review pretty much confirms what I suspected from listening to the clips a few days ago: too many indistinct rockers. I’m still not sure if I’ll knock the album off my wishlist entirely or just push it way down to the bottom.

  6. scooter
    November 20, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    I also listened to the clips and was also disappointed. I like the title track and thought this would be a better album especially after Jamey Johnson has been praising his talents so much.

  7. Trailer
    November 21, 2008 at 6:27 am

    I’d give it about a 3. He’s got great potential though. I was thinking this but couldn’t put it into words: “too often the songs settle for being different instead of superior.”

  8. Brady Vercher
    November 21, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Rick: “In fact Randy should have given the uptempo songs to Ronnie Dunn and Trace Adkins…

    I dunno, Dunn and Adkins are both capable of better. Adkins has some great material that gets overlooked because of “Badonkadonk.”

    Trailer: “I’d give it about a 3. He’s got great potential though.

    I wouldn’t complain too much about a 3, I just felt there were too many songs not worth playing to justify giving it any higher than I did. I’m curious to see what they choose as a second single, though.

  9. Matt B.
    November 21, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    “Boots On” or “Strange” are the likely second single.

  10. Mayor Jobob
    December 1, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    I thought this was Blake Shelton!!!!

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