Album Review: 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.
- Bobby P.: Thanks for the link to my one hit wonder article!
- Leeann: I'm glad you reviewed this album. I think your rating is what I'd give it too. It's a good album, …
- luckyoldsun: That Bobby Bare/Bill Parsons story has been often told, but I still don't quite understand how two then-nobodies could go …
- Leeann: The Jack Clement album is quite good!
- Donald: "Ryan Adams announced .... the August 19 release of “1984,'" Which, I'm told, is the fifteen years later update of his …
- Lynchie from Aberdeen: Delighted to hear that Hot Rize have a new album coming out – and thanks for the link to that …
- luckyoldsun: Nobody can do Karaoke George Jones like Kershaw!
- Bruce: LW, Don't apologize for your Bryant comment. You were more gracious than I would have been.
- Bruce: My vote is for Marty Stuart for his exhaustive body of work that is directional yet diversified.
- Leeann: Dang! Let me write my above sentence again!: Kelley MicKwee’s album is sounding good so far too. I really like “Beautiful …