Big & Rich

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Gravity Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

There comes a time in every clown's life when it's time to grow up. For Big & Rich, that time is 2014 and the album is Gravity. Arriving a decade after their smash 2004 debut, Horse of a Different Color, Gravity abandons the gonzo party schtick that has been their stock in trade since the beginning (they return to their roots for "I Came to Git Down," positioned at the end and playing like an afterthought) for soft melodies and smooth surfaces. It's country with adult contemporary aspirations and, old pros that they are, Big & Rich know how to craft this kind of music. After all, they've done it before -- occasionally on their own records, including the number one hit "Lost in This Moment," but usually for surrogates like Gretchen Wilson, Shannon Brown, and Taylor Swift -- but they've never indulged in pop as they do here, churning out song after song of easy, insistent melodies wrapped in glassy surfaces. Two things occasionally puncture the mood. Sometimes, Rich's politics surface unexpectedly -- as on the chorus of "That Kind of Town," where he sings "Some men want to live/Where gossip don't make the paper/And the baby doctor ain't the undertaker/Where there's more to life than Bud Lite and cruisin' around/But this ain't that kind of town" -- a quirk that isn't nearly as problematic as the fact that Rich and Big Kenny aren't as smooth as their surroundings. They still harmonize like they're smirking at a shared joke, their roughness providing not grit but an irritant in this romantic setting. Nevertheless, this is a minor point: it's possible to hear Gravity through those harmonies and appreciate it as the finely constructed piece of adult contemporary it is.

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