JT Hodges was born to record albums. Both his parents were musicians, and together they owned and ran a professional recording studio, Buffalo Sound, in Fort Worth, Texas, where Hodges was born and raised. He literally grew up in the studio, and his childhood chores included doing janitorial work at Buffalo Sound, where anyone from Michael Bolton to T-Bone Burnett might be working on a project. Hodges heard and absorbed all types of music up close because of the family business, but he was drawn most to country, and as his self-titled debut album shows, he makes a perfect fit into the high stakes 21st century contemporary country radio sweepstakes. Hodges' version of country doesn't just draw on George Strait et al, but incorporates John Mellencamp-like heartland rock, Eagles-styled guitars, and straight-out electric blues into the mix, making him sound at times like a darker and more desperate version of Keith Urban, say, or maybe Dwight Yoakam's big-hearted but rowdy cousin. Hodges wrote eight of the ten songs here, most in collaboration with veteran writers and producers Mark Collie, Don Cook, and Mark Wright, and the best of them, like the Buddy Holly-esque "Rather Be Wrong Than Lonely," the Spoon River-like "Sleepy Little Town," the let's-treasure-the-moment "Hunt You Down," and the wonderful love ballad "Goodbyes Made You Mine," feature sharply observed detail and engaging narrative drive in the lyrics, and they're well-recorded, with the sound, feel, and tone of contemporary country radio, but with fun little production touches like sudden gospel choruses (and even whistling) mixed in. Some of the songs edge up too close to cliché, but even those have a kind of compelling urgency to them. Hodges sings like an everyman, blue collar, Friday-night honky tonk romantic philosopher, and there's no reason why songs like the above shouldn't get a lot of time on country radio playlists. A nice debut.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett