Randy Houser

How Country Feels

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Shifting to an independent label after two under-performing records released on Show Dog/Universal, pro songwriter turned singer Randy Houser ditches the lean, muscular modern country of 2010's They Call Me Cadillac on its 2013 sequel, How Country Feels, embracing instead the bright, bouncy songs of contemporary country-pop. Houser collaborates with hitmaking, jam-happy troubadour Zac Brown on one song and elsewhere sings a Lee Brice song, hoping that a little bit of Brice's "Hard to Love" rubs off on him. Overall, Houser doesn't bother writing as much as he did the first two times around -- he has seven credits here, which amounts to just under half the record. Much of the album doesn't sound like Brown or Brice, though. The opening one-two punch of "Runnin' Outta Moonlight" and "Growin' Younger" are dead-ringers for the cheerful, big-footed stomp of Jake Owen (the former sounds a bit like an answer song to "Bare Foot Blue Jean Night"), and Houser never misses an opportunity to aim for the bleachers, singing in broad terms about "The Power of a Song" and "How Country Feels" and then cuts big, bright tunes to support his thesis. This winds up with a slight, odd disconnect -- it's an unabashed pop album released on an indie -- but Houser has skills as a craftsman and record-maker so How Country Feels is enjoyable even when it winds up playing a bit like a Now This Is Country collection filled with songs that never hit the charts.

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