Brantley Gilbert

Halfway to Heaven

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AllMusic Review by

It wouldn't be out of line to call Brantley Gilbert a country rocker or an outlaw country artist, but don't let those terms conjure nostalgic images of Willie and Waylon in your head, because they mean something different when applied to Gilbert's generation of Nashville rebels. For one thing, he's nobody's cowboy -- in an industry where image tells all, Gilbert's leather jacket, motorcycle, and close-shaved cranium make him look more likely to pal around with Rancid than with Tim McGraw, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. While Gilbert has cited the influence of fellow Georgians R.E.M. and the B-52's, these inspirations are inaudible on his second album, Halfway to Heaven. A more accurate assessment of his musical roots is made on his Southern pride anthem "Kick It In the Sticks," where he shouts out "AC/DC, Hank, Skynyrd, and George Strait" over huge, hard-rocking riffs worthy of the first name on that list. Exactly which Hank he's referring to is uncertain, because with an artist like Gilbert, it's just as likely to be the second or even the third. Of course, the equally tough-sounding "Country Must Be Country Wide" does indeed find Gilbert singing about radio stations "playin' Cash, Hank, Willie and Waylon," but the biting rock feel running throughout much of Halfway to Heaven suggests that those are bad-ass icons emblazoned on his personal Mt. Rushmore more than direct musical influences. Granted, romantic ballads like "My Kind of Crazy" and "Fall into Me" are the kind of tunes that seem tailor-made for the top of the country charts, and they're obviously a part of what Gilbert is about, but everything else about Halfway to Heaven seems to mark Gilbert as a rock & roll roughneck, albeit one with the requisite soft underbelly.

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