Ignite the Night
Dack Janiels/Columbia Nashville
Modern masculinist country has already spawned a backlash in the form of parody Twitter accounts and response songs, but it soldiers on, still looking for its apotheosis.
Up rides Chase Rice, probably in a truck, almost definitely in a backward snapback cap, looking to get into a little trouble. Ignite the Night is his major-label debut album, and it’s angling for a good time: the water and the sun; women who like to hang out by the water in the sun (“Your tan lines were the map for my hands to find their way/In that empty lifeguard shack”); trucks; women who like to ride in trucks (“I never seen a side ride seat looking so hot”).
At his best, Rice is a Luke Bryan manque: Beer With the Boys is a conceptual rip of Bryan’s Crash My Party, and a fine one at that. Many songs here are convincing — How She Rolls is prime power country — and it’s clear that Rice has studied the playbook closely (as has his producer Rhett Akins).
But he has an undistinguished, sometimes hollow voice. Mining already well-worn territory would be fine, were the approach new, but at times Rice appears to be singing parody, as on Look at My Truck, which invites someone who is presumably having difficulty getting straight answers from Rice to learn about him instead by examining what’s going on in his truck. He’s not kidding: The song is earnest and catchy, and is probably soon coming to a GMC commercial near you.
Attacking Nashville from the other flank is Sam Hunt, about whom the most country thing is the word Nashville in his record label and who is a logical extension of the continuing deruralization of country music.
Hunt shares Rice’s interests — well, the women, at least. That’s clear from his debut single, Leave the Night On, which could pass for a song by a grown-up teen-pop singer if it weren’t on a country label.
But that’s the least interesting song on X2C, an EP hurried out to capitalize on Hunt’s quick success in advance of his full-length debut in October. Ex to See is savage blue-eyed soul, a song that could have just as easily been released by Robin Thicke. In it, Hunt is used by a woman to make her ex jealous, his voice sneering and lecherous all at once. It’s sweaty and meaty, and has very little to do with country music.
That’s no crime, but it is revealing. Even more so is Break Up in a Small Town, which features Hunt talking, then singing (with a little Auto-Tune, maybe), then sort of rapping, then singing purely, and then cycling through those all over again in various permutations. At the hook, where ordinarily a huge guitar riff would be, is instead an extremely denuded dubstep drop (of the I Knew You Were Trouble variety). It’s a fascinating, odd song, a tug of war between muscle and heart, and maybe the most stylistically provocative song to come out of country’s recent flirtation with hip-hop. Perhaps country music has finally found its Drake, whether it wanted one or not.
— Jon Caramanica, NY Times News Service
Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch
One ambassador of New Orleans culture pays his respects to another on Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch, the busily festive new album from Dr. John. A tribute to Louis Armstrong that expresses its debt in repertoire more than in musical style, it’s a guest-laden production, with Dr. John doubling as frontman and master of ceremonies, as he did in a concert along these lines at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2012.