Joe Nichols

Never Gets Old

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The headline-grabbing gimmick on Never Gets Old, Joe Nichols' eighth studio album, is a countrified cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot's 1992 booty classic "Baby Got Back." The fact that Nichols brings in country comedian Darren Knight to perform a riff as his Southern Momma character is a giveaway that Nichols doesn't take this track too seriously -- and the fact that he can't be bothered to find a way to get this to work beyond eight lines from the original is a telltale sign that he didn't work too hard on it -- but it nevertheless captures his considerable charm and skill. From the outset, Nichols distinguished himself by balancing traditional country with modern concerns, a sensibility that's mellowed into the easy touch he shows on Never Gets Old. In tone and sound, the 2017 record is a sequel to 2013's Crickets -- it even contains a new version of that album's "Billy Graham's Bible" -- but that only signals how Nichols is beginning to settle into a relaxed middle age. He's not one to rush the tempo -- when things get quicker, as they do on the jangling "So You're Saying" and a version of Dierks Bentley's "Diamonds Make Babies," he just brings it toward adult-oriented crossover pop -- but he's also too young to rely only on old ways. Sometimes this manifests in a track with a distinctively modern bent, like "Tall Boys," which is fueled by a rhythmic R&B loop, but it usually amounts to Nichols sounding nimble and connected. Few country singers would sound as believable singing about Tom Petty and Appletinis as Nichols does here. He's an old-fashioned guy who is happy living in the modern world, and that's why Never Gets Old is so appealing: It feels familiar yet fresh.

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