Making the move from Arista to Curb, Jerrod Niemann sounds revitalized on This Ride, an album that follows High Noon by three years. That 2014 record found Niemann sliding into a slick country-pop groove, a sound he doesn't necessarily abandon on This Ride but he scuffs up this polish with a spirit of adventure. He doesn't revive the unfettered oddness of 2012's Free the Music -- a wonderfully quirky record that unfortunately halted his commercial momentum -- but he does take the time to play with drum loops, and stomping arena rock -- elements that contrast nicely with the mellow bent of the majority of the record. Crucially, production isn't the only place where Niemann plays around: He varies his songs, playing some straight country, a little bit of breezy beach music, and woozy blues boogie. None of these variations are far outside of Niemann's wheelhouse, yet it gives the record a lift, preventing the album from getting soft. Not that those sweeter songs are bad -- "God Made a Woman" is one of the best ballads he's recorded, and his original "Whiskey Waitin' on Ice" has a nice, sunny shimmer -- but having two catchy Shane McAnally co-writes ("Zero to Crazy," "A Little More Love") gives the record a pulse that carries through the rest of the record. Maybe Niemann will never be as weird as he was on Free the Music, but on This Ride he manages to convey his own amiable, slightly left of center personality within mainstream country-pop, and that's more than enough.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Lee Brice
feat: Diamond Rio