Luke Bryan

I'll Stay Me

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Luke Bryan's debut album for Capitol Nashville is about as country as the music gets these days. Rather than borrow form Tim McGraw or Big & Rich, he takes his inspiration from more timeless and perhaps timeworn carriers of the Nash Vegas tradition like Randy Travis and Alan Jackson. Bryan's also a songwriter in the best sense of the word, especially when it comes to sticking close and true to the topical side of country music, from mama and praying to food and love (and its loss) to individuality and trucks. The set contains 11 tracks, ten of which were written or co-written by Bryan. While structurally and topically Bryan is in the mainline of honky tonk tradition, the sound of the album, thanks to producer Jeff Stevens, is pure contemporary country circa the early 21st century. It borrows heavily from rock & roll technique, in the chorus vocals and the Hammond B-3 organ to the big, compressed drum sounds. Fiddles, pedal steels and honky tonk upright pianos are everywhere, but they are layered underneath big guitar sounds, reverbed vocals, and sometimes cavernous drums. It's the stress between the expertly composed material and the sonic ground that gives the album its enormous potential. Whether it's an up-tempo love song like "Baby's on the Way," with its double entendre and ringing 12-string electric guitars, the novelty jealous hillbilly rocker of "All of My Friends Say," the line dance swagger of "Country Man," the anthemic nostalgia song "We Rode in Trucks," or most any cut here, this disc is deep in singles -- and potential videos. Despite the calculating, swing for the fences nature of Bryan's debut, he is genuinely gifted, and executes nearly flawlessly. This record will sound just fine five or ten years from now (if a little cheesy for the production nuances), which is a lot more than one can say for some of his contemporaries. Bryan is a singer and songwriter to watch as a recording artist.

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