Cole Swindell

Cole Swindell

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Cole Swindell's first hit single, "Chillin' It," sounds a bit like Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" as performed by Luke Bryan, and there's a reason for that: prior to taking a stab at a recording career, Swindell was a songwriter, penning songs for Bryan, FGL, and Scotty McCreery. He's a behind-the-scenes bro, responsible for crafting the sound and feel of contemporary country, and his eponymous 2014 album demonstrates the attributes of his craft. Swindell knows his way with a hook, whether it's coming up with a clever title ("Ain't Worth the Whiskey," "Brought to You by Beer," "Dozen Roses & a Six-Pack") and worthy hooks along with melodies that escalate nicely, and the production by Michael Carter and Jody Stevens is crisp and clean, designed to fit within the contours of modern radio. The one problem with the record is that Swindell sounds like a songwriter, not a singer. He has a guy-next-door voice that's ingratiating but not compelling, never pulling listeners into the song. This is where the sonic similarities to Bryan and FGL become a bit of a detriment; it's possible to hear either sing the songs on Cole Swindell with more personality than the man himself. Nevertheless, the album winds up pleasant enough: it's constructed by pros who know how to get tunes on the radio, so it goes down easy even if it sometimes seems like an overblown demo tape.

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