Jerrod Niemann made his first inroads in the Music City as a professional songwriter, penning songs recorded by Garth Brooks, Neal McCoy, and Blake Shelton, and there’s a certain sense of sharp, smooth professionalism on his 2010 major-label debut Judge Jerrod & the Hung Jury, a sense that he casually demonstrates how he can please any audience that comes his way. He’s anchored in the breezy, beachside frat-country that’s been in vogue ever since Kenny Chesney’s Jimmy Buffett tribute took the world by storm at the turn of the millennium, but he also dabbles in slick ballads, relaxed country-funk, and chicken-pickin’ country, taking pains to illustrate his versatility. Because Niemann has the chops and friendly voice to pull it off, this casual showboating wears well, certainly better than the cringe-inducing skits that pepper the album, and better than Niemann’s too-knowing nods at the industry (“Old School New Again” is about the radio, a skit sends up laments of female country fans which he brazenly answers with “One More Drinkin’ Song”). Strip away these unnecessary drags on Judge Jerrod, and the record is one of the best mainstream country-pop records of 2010: tuneful, hooky, friendly, funny, and bright, the kind of album made for long, hot, boozy afternoons.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Dustin Evans
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