Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Brantley Gilbert: A Slice of Pure Heaven

Halfway To Heaven

I grew up south of the Mason Dixon
Workin’, spittin’, huntin’ and fishin’
Stone cold country by the grace of God

It’s about time Brantley Gilbert joined his peers in the spotlight because he’s as talented as any of them and this album, Halfway To Heaven, re-released with the slick production he deserves, proves it. By peers The Inky Jukebox means Eric Church, Justin Moore, and Jason Aldean — young bucks delivering today’s muscular, Southern Rock-based country music notable not only for its classic songwriting, but for it’s ability to melt between power ballads and crashing rock anthems.

Long a writer of some of those songs others have made famous, Gilbert has now got a chance to showcase his own impeccable voice and energetic performance style. The introductory video that comes along with the digital package presents a young guy you’d take for the singer in a metal band rather something you’d recognize as country, and in this you wouldn’t be far off, as his band has mostly been culled from other metal bands. But while the album has its share of hard and fast cuts (“Hell on Wheels,” Kick It In The Sticks, “Country Must Be Country Wide,” and “Take It Outside”), it also makes strings feel at home on such ballads as “Saving Amy,” “My Kind of Crazy, and “Fall Into Me."

Like his peers, Gilbert’s topics lean heavily on what makes men manly: fighting, drinking, loving, and generally getting up to no good. Lyrics like “the closest thing to hell she ever raised” gives you some idea of what to expect. “Take It Outside” is the best song about laying down the gauntlet that’s come along since Justin Moore’s “I Could Kick Your Ass,” and The Inky Jukebox thinks it’d make a great single if only they’d play it on the radio, which is a long shot.

Far more likely is “Saving Amy,” a tender song with a catchy hook that even the most hardened rocker will find themselves singing along to in their trucks.

He brings his old partner Colt Ford along on his own re-worked original version of “Dirt Road Anthem” which surprisingly gives us a third take on the one song — the first two being his slow rappy cut, Jason Aldean’s bluesy hit, and now this honeyed one. Watch this fantastic video of the song being made. You'll see what a beautiful guitar player Gilbert is in it.

The deluxe download comes with a bonus track, “Lie, Baby, Lie” which is excellent and well worth getting if you can. Why "G.R.I.T.S." isn't on it is a mystery. The truth is there’s no chaff on this album; every single song is killer, and as such it must surely rank up there with the very best releases of the year if not the last five.

Buy it now.

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