Sensing the Tea Party tide sweeping across America, along with his encroaching middle age, Staind's Aaron Lewis decides to ditch the morose MOR metal for a country makeover, dipping his toe in the water with the 2011 EP Town Line. It’s a curious shift in direction, because Staind never once suggested country music -- there was no twang or 2-step -- just heavy down strokes and methodical, minor-key strumming. Lewis leans on the latter for Town Line, dressing up his plodding acoustic guitars with dobros and fiddles, some down-home accouterments that lend the illusion of country to songs that could fit on any Staind album apart from the notable exception of lyrics. By Lewis' limited reading, country music is only about god, guns, family, and country, the same things that fueled Sarah Palin’s Alaska (the TV show, not the political campaign). Rocker that he is, Lewis rebels by extolling his love of weed, but these odes to herb are overshadowed by tales of his granddaddy and daughter, his praise to the “amendment rights keep me safe at night,” his insistence that he’s stayed true to his backwoods roots. Now, Aaron Lewis wasn’t born and raised south of the Mason-Dixon line: he was born in Vermont and grew up in Massachusetts, a state that is the textbook opposite of rural. There’s no doubt that Lewis is as sincere in his beliefs as Dennis Miller, but he’s also certainly a hypocrite, brushing off his success with Staind as selling his soul -- as if he wasn’t complicit, even eager to land that record contract -- then he has the stones to cast George Jones as the voice of the devil, thereby illustrating that he has no good feel for country music tradition, or even how to properly use a pure honky tonk voice. But Lewis isn’t concerned with such niceties, he’s just singing simple songs about the simple life, so maybe it’s not such a surprise that he winds up sounding like a simpleton on Town Line.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine