Saturday, December 7, 2013

On The Beaten Path?

Get Your Ass Back Here, Justin Moore

The title of Justin Moore’s third album, Off The Beaten Path, suggests that he is taking his music away from the well-traveled road that artists take by the time they make their third album. Rather, on this album, Moore turns away from that backwoods path and veers strongly onto the interstate.

The overall impression is that this album was given a massive infusion of money in the form of studio time and additional musicians, making for a slicker, more highly produced sound. Headphones will confirm that backing vocals lend weight to choruses, and that high-end guitar soloing tips each song into a complex audio experience.

The other thing any Moore fan will notice is that this album leans heavily on ballads and girl-friendly songs. Sure, there is a smattering of good ole boy in there, but it feels very tame compared to the kind of material Moore was using to identify himself on his first album.

The obvious singles — “Point At You,” “Lettin’ The Night Roll,” and “One Dirt Road” — are buoyed by a great duet with Miranda Lambert (“Old Habits”) which sounds like an old country classic. The Inky Jukebox would like to see “This Kind of Town” highlighted.

The Inky Jukebox went for the Deluxe version (and who wouldn’t?), which features two songs which ought to be on any non-deluxe version: “Big Ass Headache,” and the Charlie Daniels duet, “For Some Ol’ Redneck Reason,” but “Field Fulla Hillbillies” is the weakest Moore song we’ve heard, certainly in terms of its lyricism.

The low point on this album comes in the form of a song which really should have been an extra — preferably a non-numbered final track. “I’d Want It To Be Yours” is an ode to luscious buttocks, which is cute, but only the first couple of times you hear it. Thereafter, it sounds like a gimmick — something which is not helped by the big production it gets on the record. When The Inky Jukebox first heard it, it was delivered by Moore, standing alone with his guitar on a small stage — and in that setting, it worked. But it’s a throwaway song that sounds like it takes itself too seriously once all the instruments are added. It’s the one song that immediately gets the FF treatment when it comes on.

The Inky Jukebox has a special place for Justin Moore, and has spent a lot of time with this album, prior to writing this late review. There’s plenty to like about this record. We’re glad that he is getting the recognition that he deserves — he certainly works his ass off for it. But there remains a niggling fear that he’ll get swept up in the mainstream and drown. Justin Moore can sing. He can really, really sing. This is drowned out with a huge production that feels like every note has been tweaked in a machine.

The Inky Jukebox would like to thank the person who took and posted this photo. 

Scale it back and simplify. Please.