Zane Lewis: Zane Lewis

Juli Thanki

Zane Lewis' blend of "country" and "rock" somehow manages to be neither.

Zane Lewis

Zane Lewis

Label: Slant
US Release Date: 2008-03-25
UK Release Date: Available as import

What's that whirring noise? Why, it's Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, and Ronnie Van Zant spinning like tops in their graves! And it's all Zane Lewis's fault, thanks to his mediocre blend of pop-country and rock, a combination he calls "fuel-injected country" but I call "lame, derivative, crap". That's not as catchy, I suppose, even if it is more accurate.

Zane Lewis kicks off with "Welcome to the Southland", an unoriginal number whose sole purpose seems to be to delineate all the reasons people hate rednecks: WalMart, NASCAR, and some other stuff I don't remember, and, to be honest with you, I'd rip my fingernails out with a pair of rusty pliers before I'd listen to this song again.

The album's first single, "Come with Me", is probably the best track of the album, but that's a little bit like saying waterboarding is the best form of torture. This song sounds like something Ty Herndon rejected back in 1997. Apparently these lyrics are supposed to be sexy or romantic or whatever: "If you think I'm trying to steal your heart / Baby, give it some time / It could be we might find out / It's you that's stealing mine". Clichés about running through the rain follow, and then, very possibly the worst lyric ever written in the history of the world: "Girl, you know I'm taken by your confidence / Yeah it's a beautiful sight". Swoon. No wait…barf. Perhaps another singer could have made this song work despite its hideousness, but Lewis just can't sell it.

Zane Lewis also flexes his writing muscles with "Fly". Co-written with Jamie Richards, it's a decidedly un-catchy crapfest that tries to be part of country's proud ramblin' man tradition, but instead sounds like hillbilly Mad Libs. The allusion to "Lost Highway" doesn't help either, because it's never a good idea to remind one's listeners about the stuff they'd rather be listening to. The record gets progressively worse from here. Case in point: "Becky Brown's Daddy", a song that was better when Dierks Bentley recorded it as "What Was I Thinkin'" five years ago. Following that is the obligatory chest-thumping track, "Bad Ass Country Band". Well, one out of three ain't bad. Zane Lewis finally comes to a merciful end with the execrable ballad "Even a Leaf". I will spare you the transcribed lyrics (you're welcome), but rest assured that they are so cloying and overwrought that even Celine Dion would roll her eyes at the schmaltz.

A recurring motif throughout the disc is the name-dropping of other, better, country singers: Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Keith Whitley, Elvis Presley, and others, yet Lewis's music shows absolutely no sign of being influenced by any of the artists he cites. Apparently Zane Lewis is suffering from Jason Aldean's "Johnny Cash" Syndrome, which manifests itself as mentioning an artist in one's song, even if said song has absolutely nothing to do with said artist. It's just plain lazy songwriting, and when viewed in conjunction with the actual music of the record, it comes off as disingenuous.

Looking at the album cover, Zane Lewis seems perfectly engineered as a nonthreatening bad boy, complete with carefully sculpted facial hair, an earring, and straw cowboy hat. And he has a nice enough voice, that's for sure. Too bad it's indistinguishable from all the other faux bad boys of Nashville running around in their too tight designer jeans. Even in the mediocre environment of commercial country radio, Zane Lewis just isn't very good. Pass over this "fuel-injected country"… there's better stuff out there if you'd just turn the radio off.

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