Friday, June 7, 2013

Lonestar: Life as We Know It

Dude, I am not gonna lie - today rocks.  Like socks spread with lox at Fort Knox (well, that actually sounds pretty gross, so it's probably better than that.  but you get the point).  The baby had an extremely successful mommy-free hour at preschool (hardly any crying!  happy-happy play time!), I finished a bad-ass scarf thing for my mother, and there are glimmers of hope on the job/having a life outside of my children front.  EVERYTHING'S COMING UP GRETCHEN (maniacal laughter, panting, final wheeze)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Things are so good, in fact, that I'm not even embarrassed to admit that every time I look at this band name, I think of the beer rather than the whole "Lone Star State" aspect of it.  At least I've got my priorities straight!

Which brings us to our next section, or what there is to know about Lonestar besides the beer/Texas connection.  And it turns out the answer is a LOT: although I hadn't even HEARD of the band before this week (yup, didn't follow country till I started this blog), they've been making music and shaking their groove thangs for twenty years now, and this album is an anniversary celebration of sorts (according to the bio on their website, which, to be fair, makes absolutely no mention of any sort of "groove" or "thang").  And although you probably know all of this stuff if you stumbled across this post knowing a little sumthin' sumthin' about the band already, I'll tell you what else I found out anyway.  Band members include lead singer & pianist Richie McDonald, lead guitarist & backup vocalist Michael Britt, drummer Keech Rainwater (man, I would love to meet that guy's parents), and keyboardist/acoustic guitarist/backup vocalist Dean Sams, and this is the first album they've released since 2007 that has McDonald on vocals - apparently, he lent his lead singer position to a certain Cody Collins while pursuing a solo career.  And since I don't know a single song by the group that isn't on this album, I'll let McDonald do the talking regarding how this record differs from the band's previous efforts (from an interview on Digital Journal): "Well, I think what's different about this one is that we got to produce it, so I think we had a little more creative control. We actually wrote nine of the 12 songs, so we really feel, for the first time in our careers, that this is really us more than ever."  What's even more shocking is that they also had FUN while doing it, or as McDonald tells Songfacts, "So I think this time we're just recording music, having fun doing it, and cherishing every moment night after night, riding on the bus together, and not taking ourselves too seriously."  And here I figured being a country music singer would be such a drag!

So you may have already surmised this from my Devil-may-care attitude, but this is not an album I plan to take seriously at any point during this post, although that's more of a result of my giddy disposition than any serious suckage or Clapton-esque whimsy.  However, it's also a totally standard country record with your standard, pleasant assortment of songs which run the gamut from twangy, emotional ballads ("Just the Rain") to content back-porch sing-alongs ("Pretty Good Day"), to verging-on-Luke-Bryan-style-party tracks ("Party All Day") (except without a shred of offensiveness or nudity).  It also has what I would call totally standard instrumentation, although McDonald calls it "maybe a little more edgy on some songs" when he's talking to Digital Journal (which, I'll admit, confuses me - maybe I need to listen to some of their past work in order to get an idea of what's less edgy than this completely innocuous album).  However, McDonald seems to think that arena-rocker "How Can She Be Everywhere" is a crazy-quirky one, what with its '80s-rock screamin' guitar background and brassy drums and all ("2 am Vegas strip with Big & Rich, and there she is/Disney World, Taj Mahal, it's a small world after all"), and the revved-up plucked strings and snapped fingers of "Party All Day" could, theoretically, be the work of a younger band ("Summertime's here the days are getting longer/They get outside, feelings getting stronger").  And in a different vein there's also "I Did It for the Girl", which trades in the pun-ridden, slightly dorky country sass for a homier, more nostalgic feel that proves its earnestness with piano ("A couple years on down the road/I asked Rebecca to marry me/I traded in that gold Corvette/For a diamond ring").

So yeah, I'm a jerk, and while this album is totally listenable karaoke-fodder that will most likely fuel the fans, I don't find it to require serious thought: it is what it is, you know, or in other words it's a reasonably-catchy, safe-for-grandma type of record.  And since there's a helluvalot of territory between barrier-breaking and embarrassing, this album, much like the beer, occupies a place somewhere in the middle.  So in the words of The Beer Buddha, which I'm taking from the context of enjoying the similarly-named beverage, this record would be "Great... for after mowing the lawn or while you're grilling."  Or while you're drinking a Lone Star.

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