Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Modern Day Prodigal Star

Brantley Gilbert’s “Freshman Year” Record

It’s been Brantley Gilbert’s year for a while now; his songwriting credits for Jason Aldean only gave him a leg up to the big time, where he belongs. Along the way, Gilbert has undergone quite a transformation — one which can best be seen by giving his first album, A Modern Day Prodigal Son, a spin. I expect that many of his new fans, familiar with Halfway to Heaven, will be reaching back to pick this one up, so even though MDPS was released in 2009 (it was scheduled to hit stores in 2006), a review feels necessary.

The biggest change folks will notice is that the Brantley Gilbert of six years ago was a quieter, gentler guy. The spitting image of a farm boy, he has a sweet voice and sings sweet songs, accompanied by his able and melodic guitar playing. There are only a few up-tempo numbers, notably "G.R.I.T.S," a paean to Girl Raised In The South, which has predictably remained a live show fan favorite.

Listen to “Play Me That Song,” which showcases his talents beautifully — especially his knack for writing songs with natural hooks that draw you in.

If you’ve only just heard of Gilbert because he’s hawt right now, you should take a look at this footage of a show he did at a small club where the crowd shows him some serious love. He wrote this song — "Picture On The Dashboard" — when he was just 17.

This is the album on which appears Gilbert’s song “My Kinda Party,” which became a monster hit for Aldean. Hearing the original, you’ll appreciate how closely he kept to it. Perhaps it was this very aspect which got Gilbert fans hot under the collar, thinking, mistakenly, that he’d sold the song to a bigger star. He explains the situation here.

As Gilbert makes the transition to productions with far more money, firepower, and wattage behind them (the kind that makes “Kickin’ in the Sticks” sound the way it does), he brings along some of his mellower songs for the ride. The title track is a good case in point: it sounds great run through some big stacks. The Inky Jukebox hopes that Gilbert continues to showcase that careful ear and ability to end on a soft note even as he gets harder musically.

The Inky Jukebox has some advice for country’s newest bad boy on the block: Dude — toss the dip and questionable goatee. It puffs your lip out in an unattractive manner. I don’t care how smokin’ your current girlfriend is (and she is), there’s plenty of ladies at home who’re put off by tobacco teefs.

That being said, The Inky Jukebox LOVES this guy, and strongly recommends you pick up this lovely and overlooked first album. It’s only $6.99 on iTunes. What a steal.

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