Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Randy Houser: How Country Feels

My son insists this guy looks like a monster.
First of all: if you, like me, are currently suffering through this --->
then I'm sorry.  Because it is very, very cold.  Also, I am jealous of that guy's jacket, because mine isn't nearly so warm.  Anyway.

Randy Houser, huh?  If you've read my blog at all, you are familiar with the fact that I'm NOT familiar with country, and, surprise surprise, I had never even heard of this guy before today.  I did poke around a bit on his website, however, where I learned that he's recently married and that he and his wife Jessa made a tiny, sweet baby just last year (I'm assuming the baby started out tiny and sweet.  I guess he could have made a huge, cranky baby, but that seems less likely).  I also checked out his Wikipedia page, where I learned that he is yet another co-author of the Trace Atkins classic "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" (along with Jamey Johnson, whose newest album I listened to last fall).  And YET AGAIN, this is not really a man I can picture dorking out over butt, but that's neither here nor there.

Anyway.  This record starts out mid-tempo with a very classic new country feel and then pretty quickly stalls into a two-song sap-tastic ballad fiesta with "The Singer", an oopy-goopy touchy-feely number with twangy guitars, piano, and quasi-deep lyrics lamenting the difficulties of loving an iconic man ("She loved the singer/But she just couldn't live the song") and "Power of a Song", about you guessed it, the power of a song (obviously, I don't dig country ballads.  if you'd like a COMPLETELY OPPOSITE opinion, the Rhapsody reviewer notes that "Houser's soulful voice shines brightest on the straight and sincere songs, like "The Singer", [and] "Power of a Song").  After these two tracks the record pulls out of sap-land rather strangely with "Absolutely Nothing", a catchy guitar-driven ditty about exactly what the title says it's about ("I wrote a song about absolutely nothing/With my toes tapping in the sand").  Then we have mid-tempo love duet "Wherever Love Goes" with Kristy Lee Cook and mid-tempo "Like A Cowboy" before title track and single "How Country Feels", which marks a bit of a turnaround in the record with harder-edged guitars and awesome made-up words ("You were raised on an asphalt farm/Ain't never heard a rooster crow/Never walked barefoot by a river/Felt the mud up betweenst your toes").  The album picks up from there, and "Sunshine on the Line" and "Goodnight Kiss" bring some of the best hooks on the thing, along with some of the grooviest beats.

In general, if you can't already tell, I didn't love this record.  Country is still a relatively new genre for me, and Houser's particular brand of it, what with its sentimental balladry and very standard new country feel, doesn't do much for me.  That being said, if earnest mid-tempo twang is something that appeals to you, this album seems like a relatively good example of it (although I would rearrange the tracks either way, just for cohesion).  Furthermore, Houser quotes Jamey Johnson as saying "I watched a blind man jump to his feet and drop his crutches the first time he heard Randy Houser sing" on his website, and I'm willing to admit the possibility that Johnson knows more than me about country music (I am NOT willing to let this image go unchallenged, however - a blind man with crutches?  does he also have a broken foot?  because, call me crazy, but it seems like crutches would make it even HARDER for a blind man to get around.)  Either way, Houser seems like a decent guy, and that he put his heart into the record.  It may not be my jam, but I'm sure it's SOMEBODY'S jam, you know? 

Personally, I just wish there was a song about butts.

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