Artist: Brantley Gilbert
Title: Just As I Am
Release Date: May 19, 2014
Label: Valory Music Group
Brantley Gilbert’s radio output is far from an accurate representation of his body of work as an artist. For example, “Country Must Be Country Wide” and “Kick It In The Sticks” were among the weakest tracks on his last album Halfway to Heaven yet BOTH were released as singles ahead of marvelous tunes such as “Bendin’ The Rules and Breaking the Law,” “Savin’ Amy” (which is among my all-time favorite songs), title track “Halfway to Heaven” and bonus track “Hell on an Angel.” It’s a nearly identical situation already with third album Just As I Am.
Platinum #1 smash “Bottoms Up” is lyrically boring, mentioning the typical bro-cliches such as tailgates, beer and hot girls in daisy dukes. While it did grow on us a fair bit, due to our love for the production and melody, it’s near the bottom of the album in terms of quality. Follow up “Small Town Throwdown” (duet with Thomas Rhett and Justin Moore) is easily the worst song on the album. “Let’s tallboy up”? What does that even mean? It’s disposable, obnoxious and not even catchy enough to classify itself as a guilty pleasure. Admittedly, Moore sounds very good here, but that’s cancelled out by the fact that Rhett sounds absolutely terrible. “If You Want a Bad Boy” was probably just included to reassure people that he’s not becoming a softie, and that he is still in fact a badass.
Outside of those three, it’s golden. “17 Again” is a fantastic nostalgia tune in the same vein of Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert’s “We Were Us.” The production and vocals showcase the regret intended by the lyric. “Lights of My Hometown” may come across as just another generic bro-country turd, but the details laced into the lyric and the bridge which talks about remembering a friend who passed on makes this a top-notch effort. “That Was Us” is another nostalgic song about remembering little moments from teenhood. “My Baby’s Guns & Roses” is a super catchy, cheesy love song. Gilbert nails it vocally and the production is spot on. “I’m Gone’ is a heartfelt tune which showcases the best of Brantley’s vocals, “Let It Ride” is another spectacular vocal showcase and “My Faith In You” shows his vulnerable side without being sappy.
Above all though, is the shining star “One Hell of an Amen.” It is truly a masterpiece about living life to it’s fullest and not taking anything for granted. It’s one of the best songs recorded this year and arguably Brantley’s best song ever.
Some may be turned off by Brantley Gilbert’s over-the-top, outlaw persona and his ridiculously poor single choices, but Just As I Am is an album we highly recommend and one of the bets of 2014 so far. Pick it up, you will not regret it.
Buy Brantley Gilbert’s Just As I Am now on iTunes.