Joe Nichols – “It Ain’t No Crime”

Matt Clark | January 12th, 2008

joenichols10_v_e.jpgUniversal South is promoting “It Ain’t No Crime” as “Joe Nichols as you’ve never heard him before.” Actually, it’s exactly what we’ve been hearing from Joe Nichols all along, and it’s becoming tiresome. As much as I like traditionalists, I’m close to writing off Nichols. Joe Nichols is one of the very best vocalists on the radio, and anyone who doubts that he’s a great country singer hasn’t heard Nichols and Rhonda Vincent sing “Cash on the Barrelhead” on the Louvin Brothers tribute album or Nichols’ Grand Ole Opry performance of “Bartender Blues.” I don’t expect Nichols’ own single releases to be songs of commensurate quality, but I’ve been waiting five years for Nichols to release a string of meaningful material and he’s disappointed me.

“Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” and “Size Matters” made me smile, but you can’t build a career on such novelty songs. Nichols can’t sing about heartbreak without resorting to kitsch (“Brokenheartsville,” “She Only Smokes When She Drinks”) and his recent attempt at sentiment (“I’ll Wait For You”) was a pining retread of a three-verse cliché that suffered the ignominy of being performed at Anna Nicole Smith’s funeral.

So “It Ain’t No Crime” is really just more of the same. It sounds good and is performed well but it’ll be forgotten just as soon as it lands in the top ten. Nichols is fast becoming a study in “how to succeed in country music without really trying.”

Thumbs Down

  1. Mike W.
    January 12, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    I like the song and I generally like Nichols, but I think “Let’s Get Drunk and Fight” would have been a better choice for an uptempo song off of “Real Things”. That said, I agree with what you said, Nichols has all the potential in the world vocally, but his material always seems to be a step below what he SHOULD be recording.

  2. Corey
    January 12, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    That’s by far my favorite song from the album (and a great album at that). It’s well written and a sly departure from typical Nashville fare. When’s the last time you heard a sadsack song on Clearchannel radio? It reminds me of Tom T. Hall a good deal. It probably won’t be a big hit since soccer moms can’t really get behind a slacker anthem, but I dig it. Yours isn’t actually a review of the song, by the way, just an aside on what he “should” be recording.

  3. Rick
    January 12, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Apart from “What’s a Guy Got To Do…” and “Brokenheartsville”, I’ve never been overly impressed with Joe’s singles even though he does have a great traditional voice. He needs to up the ante and start putting out singles that can compete head on quality wise with Josh Turner and Blake Shelton, his closest traditionalist competitors.

    Hearing Joe on “Livin, Lovin, Losin” (as mentioned in the review) and sing Gene Watson’s “Farewell Party” on the Opry have demonstrated the greatness he is vocally capable of, and like Matt I’d like to hear more of “that” sound from Joe in his singles. Its a good thing these young traditionalists I enjoy listening to are good looking enough to keep mainstream country radio’s primary female listening audience interested even if their singles aren’t the greatest musically speaking….

  4. Matt C
    January 13, 2008 at 12:03 am

    “Let’s Get Drunk and Fight” was actually at least on hold for and perhaps cut by Tim McGraw but didn’t make it on to Let it Go. I remember going to a Tim concert in 2005 and he performed the song and said that it would be on his next album.

    Re: Joe’s album, I thought that it was nice sounding but quite overrated. Let’s not even talk about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Real Things made several cross-genre top albums lists yet wasn’t even in the vicinity of my country genre top albums list.

  5. Mike W.
    January 13, 2008 at 3:13 am

    I thought “Real Things” continued the trend of a lot of Joe’s albums. It had some great songs (She’s All Lady), but still felt like it had too much filler.

  6. Stephen H.
    January 13, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    “Let’s Get Drunk and Fight”, I think, was going to be the second single, but I assume they postponed it since he went to rehab late last year for alcohol abuse.

  7. Kenny Christmas
    January 16, 2008 at 12:04 am

    The album is a fine listen. I like the pace of that song, “my whiskey years.” But Joe should be our Randy Travis with songs ass badass as “Diggin’ Up Bones” or “On the Other Hand.”

  8. Leeann
    January 30, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    This is exactly how I feel about Joe’s music. Great traditional voice, but forgettable songs.

  9. tim
    May 24, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    its a good thing that all artists dont listen to critics, otherwise the radio would only be playing the type of music that belongs on a lifetime movie soundtrack.

    Joe…i say kudos, keep it up, there are a lot of us who would rather smile than cry.

  10. Brady Vercher
    May 24, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Yeah, because that’s all critics like and they’re incapable of enjoying anything “good.”

  11. Stormy
    May 24, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Tim: On the other hand, if people listened to what country fans were saying instead of telling them what to like, you might not have so many #1 singles with albums that just don’t sell.

  12. rory suire
    June 1, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    are you expecting joe to do pop country? no way man. no way.

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