My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Easton Corbin – ‘Easton Corbin’

I’ve become somewhat jaded in the past few years and no longer expect to like new artists trying to break into mainstream country music. Country radio has gotten so bad, I haven’t listened to it in over two years. As a result, I’m not always up to date on the latest crop of new artists. I’d read a little bit about Easton Corbin on some of the other country blogs, but after hearing about his traditionalist leanings, I avoided reading too much about him until I could hear his music for myself and form my own opinion.

I initially cringed upon learning that Corbin’s debut single was titled “A Little More Country Than That”, expecting it to have come directly out of Jason Aldean’s playbook. It was a relief to learn that this wasn’t another redneck anthem. Instead of a defiant declaration of Southern pride and boasting about his tractor and pickup truck, Corbin makes use of the imagery of rural living while making a declaration of love (and possibly a proposal) to his sweetheart. In some respects, it is reminiscent of the Charley Pride classic “All I Have To Offer You Is Me”. Clearly tailor-made for radio, it’s a pleasant if somewhat fluffy song with slightly cliched lyrics. Written by Rory Lee Feek, Don Poythress, and Wynn Varble, it’s not a song that makes the listener stop in his or her tracks and listen, but it’s better than what is typically offered on country radio these days.

The album was produced by Carson Chamberlain, who has also produced Mark Wills and Billy Currington, but I won’t hold that against him since he has written some of my favorite Alan Jackson songs. Chamberlain had a hand in writing six of the album’s eleven songs, while Easton himself co-wrote four. The production choices are stellar; I can’t remember the last time I heard the pedal steel featured so prominently on a mainstream artist’s debut release. Corbin and Chamberlain don’t pander to radio’s current pop leanings and wisely avoids the production excesses that have marred so many contemporary country releases.

Corbin has been criticized for sounding too much like George Strait, and the similarities in their vocal styles is undeniable. Many of the songs, such as “Someday When I’m Old” and “Don’t Ask Me About A Woman” sound as if they came from the Strait catalog. “Someday When I’m Old”, written by Nashville tunesmiths Chris Lindsey, Aimee Mayo and Troy Verges is my favorite song on the album and “A Lot To Learn About Livin'” written by Liz Hengber, Sonny LeMaire and Clay Mills, is an example of a beach song done properly. Kenny Chesney, please take note. On the other hand “I Can’t Love You Back” doesn’t quite work. The lyrics are somewhat problematic and a bit confusing:

Girl, I love you crazy
It comes so easy, after all we had
I could love you with all my heart
But the hardest part is
I just can’t love you back

The first time I heard the chorus, it didn’t make sense to me. I thought why can’t he love her back, thinking that “love you back” meant “love you in return.” It wasn’t until the second verse that I finally realized that the protagonist’s love interest is gone, and Easton is lamenting that he can’t bring her back, which might have been a better way to phrase the sentiment.

Overall, the album is pleasant, but not particularly memorable. The material is mostly lightweight and the album would have benefited from the inclusion of one or two more substantial songs, as well as a little more variety in tempo. Corbin will also have to develop a more distinctive vocal style in order to avoid being dismissed as a George Strait wannabe. I have no doubt that he can do this; after all, Clint Black was mistaken for Merle Haggard when his first single hit the airwaves, and Owen Bradley was reluctant to sign Loretta Lynn because she sounded too much like Kitty Wells. That didn’t stop Black or Lynn from successfully developing their own styles. If Corbin can do the same, and can find some weightier material the next time around to build upon this solid debut, he has the potential to become a huge star in his own right.

Grade: B

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9 responses to “Album Review: Easton Corbin – ‘Easton Corbin’

  1. Occasional Hope March 12, 2010 at 7:50 am

    This is a promising debut, and I really like Easton’s voice and the production values. But I wish they’d picked some more interesting songs.

  2. Steve from Boston March 12, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Great review Razor, from everything I’ve heard, this guy has some real potential.

    I’m going to a stadium concert in August, with Brad Paisley as the headliner, and other acts include Darius Rucker, Jason Aldean, Sara Evans, and Easton Corbin is opening. I’m going for Brad and Sara, but now I’m really looking forward to Easton as well.

  3. Drew March 12, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention anything about “This Far From Memphis”, which I think is the very best song (material-wise and vocally) on the album. Sounds so much like Strait in that one, and his phrasing is just so nuanced. He definitely shows the most potential on that track.

  4. Leeann Ward March 13, 2010 at 3:52 am

    Good review. I suppose my 3 star rating is more a C than a B, but I did vacillate between 3 and 3.5 stars. There’s lots to like about this album, but I want to hear better songs and a more developed voice next time around. I’m rooting for him; I just can’t call myself a fan yet.

    • Razor X March 13, 2010 at 8:58 am

      I vacillated about the final score as well. The first couple of times I listened to the, I found myself getting bored with album about halfway through. Then I took a break from it for a few days and listened to it one more time before writing the review, and I found myself liking it a little more on that go-around. He definitely needs some stronger material the next time around, and I also agree with your assessment about needing a more developed voice. I think that will come with time and experience. With most artists, when you go back and listen to their early work, the difference is quite striking.

  5. Leeann Ward March 13, 2010 at 9:20 am

    I agree that the difference is quite striking when you go back and compare younger voices to that of their more mature voices. George Strait’s voice, and even Vince Gill’s, have really developed a more rich, full quality over the years.

  6. Matt B. March 14, 2010 at 12:19 am

    Razor,

    Nice review here. However I would like to point out that it’s Wynn Varble, not Varblet.

  7. Pingback: Group Spotlight: the new New Traditionalists « My Kind Of Country

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