Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Largely What One Expects Of Country, Little Bit Of Everything Is Fine Billy Currington.

The Good: Good vocals, Generally decent lyrics, Fine musical variety within the genre.
The Bad: SHORT!
The Basics: A surprisingly strong third album from Billy Currington, Little Bit Of Everything holds up well because of the musical, vocal and lyrical diversity of the songs.

As those who read my many music reviews know, I have been listening to Country music with alarming frequency because my wife is a fan of the genre. On our trip to Michigan that reunited my wife with her friends and family for the first time in almost a year, she picked up a new (to her) c.d. and we listened to it several times on the drive home. The c.d. was Little Bit Of Everything by Billy Currington and she bought it on the strength of the single "People Are Crazy." My only experience with the artist before she played this album on heavy repeat was seeing Currington perform that song on the Country Music Awards last year. It was a fun song and I could see why my wife bought the album as a result.

But for those who bought Little Bit Of Everything based upon the strength of the one single, they are likely to be in for a real surprise: most of the songs sound nothing like that popular hit. Instead, Little Bit Of Everything, as the name implies, is an album packed with all sorts of songs that are not just the stereotypical Country song. Instead, Currington's latest album is musically diverse and is a decent mix of melancholy, musing and party songs. Unfortunately, it gets off to a rocky start with the song "Swimmin' In Sunshine" before two much sadder ballads. Instead of the album working from sadness to euphoria, it starts high, takes an emotional right turn and then takes a long time to get back to the initial mood of the album.

That said, with only eleven songs occupying only 42:50 on a single c.d., Little Bit Of Everything is very much the work of Billy Currington. While Currington only co-wrote five of the songs, he does provide the lead vocals on the entire album. Similarly, while he is not credited with playing any of the instruments on the album, Currington is credited as a co-producer on the album. As a result, it seems unlikely that the album did not sound like what he wanted it to.

And the sound is different from virtually any Country album I have heard thus far. Currington's popularity seems to come from the musical storysongs he sings, as he does on "People Are Crazy," but many of the songs sound completely different. So, for example, "Don't" has a soft rock sound that sounds almost like it came from Joshua Kadison's album Painted Desert Serenade. "Swimmin' In Sunshine" has a very pop sound and "Every Reason Not To Go" has a Classic Country sound that makes one envision Kenny Rogers or Garth Brooks singing it. There's the obligatory nod to Country on "That's How Country Boys Roll," but musically the album is a lot more diverse than the simple Country twang that one might expect.

Even so, Little Bit Of Everything sounds like a strong guitar, bass, drums album. "Everything" might also include keyboards and steel guitar, but instrumentally, it is the guitar and drums which dominate and that is how it is on the entire album. While there are the musing strings that make "Every Reason Not To Go" so sad and "People Are Crazy" so amusing, most of the guitarwork is pretty basic strumming along to create a melody or backing to the vocals.

As for the vocals, Little Bit Of Everything features Billy Currington doing something rather interesting. He sings low and clear on "People Are Crazy," but the rest of the album is a higher register. On songs like "Everything" and "No One Has Eyes Like You" he performs with more of a tenor sound to his voice. In addition to having good range for the note registers, Billy Currington manages to have a smooth, wonderful voice that can truly hold a note. On "Walk On," Currington holds notes for a long time while straining to make his lines heard well.

Lyrically, Little Bit Of Everything is mostly what the title implies. There is a nice mix of Country ballads and Country party songs. Currington seems especially eager to impress the listener with his Country credibility on songs like "That's How Country Boys Roll." With lines like ". . . they're spinnin' their wheels, castin' their reels / Way back off them ol' country roads / Singin' in bars, soupin' up cars just to see how fast they'll go / From that ball and a glove to fallin' in love / They do everything heart and soul / That's how country boys roll" ("That's How Country Boys Roll") Currington reinforces the good ole boy stereotype of the Country man.

There are also archetypal Country music love song, which Currington co-wrote in "No One Has Eyes Like You." That song is plagued by a sense of repetition and it does not honestly state anything the listener has not heard in hundreds of pop or Country songs. Currington sings "They smile when I'm happy, they cry when I'm sad . They make me out to be more than I am / Oh nobody loves me the way that you do / And no one has eyes like you" ("No One Has Eyes Like You") and the listener might be somewhat ambivalent. After all, the rhyme scheme is boring and the generic compliment the lover song has certainly been done to death by now.

That said, Currington manages to be clever and he exposes the Country man for the emotionally reticent man he is on "Every Reason Not To Go." On that track, Currington wrote lines which have a poetry to them which develops wonderfully over the course of the song. The musical protagonist is a man who is trying to get the woman he cares about to stay with lines like "I don't think you'll like it / I hear that city's cold / And the people aren't much warmer / Two good reasons not to go / You fight traffic all day long / Then you gotta pay to park / You have to go around locking all / Your doors there after dark" ("Every Reason Not To Go"). The lines develop with the protagonist coming up with reasons trivial and blase before finally getting to the fact that he loves the woman. That kind of inability or difficulty in being emotionally honest works well for the song and makes almost as much of a statement as the lines in the songs which actually express feelings. For subtly revealing the inadequacies of his target demographic, Currington deserves some real credit.

Ultimately, Little Bit Of Everything was an easy "recommend" for me because the musical and thematic diversity work quite well (even if he sounds like he is trying to be Eric Clapton on "Heal Me") and the album has moments where Currington either is insightful or truly rocks. The result is an album that I already suspect I will not loathe when my wife plays her music. That is, sometimes, the most one can truly ask for.

The best track is "Every Reason Not To Go," the low point is the unmemorable "I Shall Return."

For other albums by men, please check out my reviews of:
Disco 4 - Pet Shop Boys
Play - Moby
Then: The Early Years - They Might Be Giants


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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