"Practice makes perfect" is a cliché, but it suits Kip Moore. He first essayed his update of heartland rock in 2012, polishing it with a hefty dose of bro-country swagger that earned him a few big hits, including the number one "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck," but he didn't strike the right balance on Wild Ones, a 2015 sequel that found him striving to achieve the cavernous music of the '80s. Delivered just two years later, Slowheart is the record Moore has been attempting to make all along: a big-sounding, big-hearted album that's as much Midwestern rock as it is modern country. Moore made this progression by taking the reins into his own hands, seizing control of the production, and co-writing all but two of the record's 13 songs, with the remaining two brought to him by songwriter Luke Dick. All this means Slowheart is an auteurist album, one driven by Moore's sense of self, and he winds up precisely articulating his blend of arena country and AOR. Slowheart strips back some of the gloss of Wild Ones without renouncing the idea of studio polish. Indeed, Moore undergirds his soaring guitars with a brawny rhythm section, one that helps pound home the beats of "Plead the Fifth" and "Fast Women" but is limber enough to swing on "Just Another Girl." The latter is just one cut that showcases his playfulness, his good cheer reaching a pinnacle on "I've Been Around" -- the hookiest melody here serving a playful lyric -- but threaded throughout the album. Slowheart may sound tougher than either of its predecessors, but Moore also appears appealingly bruised, patching himself up after suffering a series of broken hearts and disappointments. He's not wallowing in his misery, he's brushing himself off and moving forward, and this weathered sensitivity when combined with the music's full-throated roar gives Slowheart a soul uncommon in contemporary country. Moore isn't a bro-country goofball or a dour revivalist: he's a passionate true believer in the redeeming power of loud guitars and sturdy songs, and Slowheart is proof he can deliver what he preaches.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine