|Voices EP Receives A+|
|by Razor X - Editor, My Kind of Country|
It’s no secret that I have been deeply disappointed for the most part with the direction that mainstream country music has taken in the past few years. There has been little regard for tradition among artists and radio programmers alike, as the genre has moved slowly but steadily away from its roots and closer and closer towards mainstream pop. “Who’s gonna fill their shoes?” asked George Jones, about country music’s legends, back in 1985. At the time and for quite a few years thereafter there seemed to be plenty of able singers waiting in the wings to carry on the tradition, but one by one they disappeared from the limelight and from radio playlists. From the famed Class of ’89, only Alan Jackson maintains a regular presence on country radio.
It’s enough to make a hardcore country fan give up altogether on the mainstream and retreat to the Americana camp or make do with listening to oldies for entertainment. But just when it all seems like a lost cause, there appears a glimmer of hope. Chris Young has been one of the few promising prospects in recent years. He won Nashville Star in 2005, which led to a record deal with RCA. His 2006 debut album, though solid, didn’t garner a lot of attention from radio. His commercial fortunes have improved considerably, though, with his sophomore effort, which has produced two #1 hits so far, including this week’s chart-topper, “The Man I Want To Be.”
Last week Young released a three-track digital EP called Voices, which pays tribute to some of the artists who influenced him. In an era where country stars are more likely to name Bon Jovi and Fleetwood Mac as influences than Haggard and Jones, it’s a breath of fresh air to hear a young up-and-comer name Keith Whitley, John Anderson, and Vern Gosdin as his musical heroes. Voices contains a track from each of these artists’ catalogs: Whitley’s “I’m Over You”, Anderson’s “Swingin’”, and Gosdin’s “Chiseled In Stone”. All are simple, acoustic arrangements that nicely showcase Young’s powerhouse voice. “Swingin’”, in particular, is a pleasant surprise. Never one of my favorite songs, Young’s stripped-down version is good enough to make me reconsider my opinion of the song. Both “I’m Over You” and “Chiseled In Stone” make a strong case that Young is the rightful heir to Whitley and Gosdin. Let’s hope that he is able to continue to come up with strong material and that radio continues to embrace it. Chris Young just may be the man who will lead mainstream country music out of the pop-flavored wilderness.
Voices is available exclusively through iTunes