Steve Moakler’s self-titled EP, available today, is far from a debut – he released the first of four previous albums in 2009 – but his newest collection feels like a sort of reintroduction. The EP is his first project since he garnered praise for co-writing “Riser,” the title track on Dierks Bentley’s most recent album. It’s his most country-fied effort to date, backed by Nashville super-producer Luke Laird, and makes a strong case for his membership in the country radio club. His past work is just as smart, but less danceable and more contemplative or introspective. These songs, however, could arguably all vie for a spot on summer airwaves. Though the sounds are decidedly mainstream, Moakler’s lyrics stand out.
“Suitcase,” the lead single, puts a relatable twist on the sometimes-grandiose love-conquers-all theme, reminding the world that money shouldn’t matter: “Cause everybody wants to chase the rainbow and find a pot of gold / hoping there’s a suitcase full of money, but all I want is you honey.” It’s sweet, harmless, and creative – descriptors one might also apply to Moakler himself.
The opening track, “Steel Town,” draws upon Moakler’s Pittsburgh roots in a classic ode to hard work sprinkled with strong metaphors and solemn voice recordings. A solid track, if not entirely groundbreaking. The biggest radio potential lies in “Summer Without Her” or “Love Drunk” – the former a smart spin on the universal heartache of lost summer love, the latter a healthy handful of Thomas Rhett- and alcohol-infused plays on words. Both are well-executed, relatively fresh takes on tried-and-true topics, proving that Moakler knows how to cater to his audience.
Bottom line: Steve Moakler is a strong offering of contemporary country. It doesn’t try to redefine boundaries or bravely push limits, but the songs are undeniably well-crafted people-pleasers that will hopefully solidify Moakler’s place at the table.
- “In a steel town you learn how to bend and not break” – Steel Town
- “Sunset’s pretty like it was before, but without her on my shoulder / It’s just a bunch of colors making me wish that I could hold her” – Summer Without Her