On his popular and generally acclaimed debut LP, Easton Corbin’s winning qualities were a voice that sounds a remarkable lot like George Strait’s, some cleverly written songs (like the initial hit, “A Little More Country Than That”) and a demeanor of confident ease. On his second LP All Over the Road, he still has the first, but has mostly abandoned the second in favor of an amplification of our perception of the third quality. Though the album title seems to indicate eclecticism, the album goes the opposite way, towards a general feeling of comfort and good will not that different from what’s pedaled by a host of other popular young male country singers these days. Joe Nichols and Billy Currington especially come to mind. The title track itself ends up not being about variety, either, but of course about a hot girl and a car, one of the most prominent images on country radio right now.
Other familiar sentiments and phrases the album offers include “Lovin’ You Is Fun”, “Hearts Drawn in the Sand”, “Dance Real Slow” and “Only a Girl”. These songs almost write themselves, from their titles. You know, of course, that the narrator in “Only a Girl” will tell us she was only a girl, so he can forget her, and then realize that she wasn’t only a girl to him after all. Or that “Hearts Drawn in the Sand” will be about a summertime fling.
Of course popular music, country or otherwise, is the story of banal and commonplace subjects being made into something transcendent, but there’s little here that’s going to surprise or feel new. “That’s Gonna Leave a Memory” (see what he did there!) at least is trying to be clever, bringing a fashion focus and haunted-by-sex dimension to his tale of a woman leaving a man: “never wear a short dress for a long goodbye.”
“A Thing for You” goes for zen cowboy poetry with its recitation of the essential facts of love—“falling stars fall to the ground / floors are flat and the moon is round”—before stating that his love for her should be just as obvious. There is something attractive about the song. Hearing him sing these would-be truisms does fit naturally with the relaxed manner of his singing voice. “Girl I’ve got a thing for you” can’t help but be less interesting in comparison, and it’s ultimately hard to hear all of this song’s clichés without being reminded that the whole album is trafficking in the same thing. “This Feels A Lot Like Love” similarly throws tired metaphors at us: love feels like catching a big fish, like seeing a sunset, like jumping from an airplane.
He enters the relaxation zone again, to good effect, on the love ballad “Are You With Me”, which imagines the lovers as world travelers, but as you start listening, you just know that if the quiet tension in the music is ever allowed to build, it’s going to go somewhere fluffier and more innocuous than you want, and it does. The closing piano-laden “I Think of You” goes even more for easy-listening sap, though more confidently. I expected it to be faith-tinged (a common final-track approach) and it wasn’t—the smallest of surprises. Still, “when I hear that song / I can’t help but smile and think of you” has been expressed in how many songs already?
“Tulsa Texas” is the one song on the album that stands out. It is no more original than the others, but fits an older template of country song that appeals to me more. It sounds a hundred times more like a song George Strait might have sung, with our cowboy protagonist trying to shake his ex-lover and leave no forwarding address. I hate to be the guy saying that a modern country singer would benefit by sounding more like the older guys, but…here I am.
// Notes from the Road
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