New country albums show off genre’s range

Keith Urban’s Get Closer may offer a short track listing, but it still manages to impress with its wide variety of music and inspired lyrics. (credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) Keith Urban’s Get Closer may offer a short track listing, but it still manages to impress with its wide variety of music and inspired lyrics. (credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

This past week, two of country music’s hottest acts released new albums that are sure to gain airplay, and they might even garner some mainstream radio attention as well.

Keith Urban — *Get Closer*

This is Urban’s seventh studio album over a span of 12 years. For an artist who’s 43, his ability to turn out hits appropriate for 2010 is amazing. His newest album is only eight tracks and 33 minutes long (though the deluxe version is more than twice that length), which makes it feel like he should have delayed it longer to produce a longer set list. Nonetheless, there are some quality songs on the album.

The leadoff track, “Put You In a Song,” is a different take on a love song. Urban combines his love for music and his love for a certain someone by “putting them in a song,” thus creating a song that’s good to turn the volume up on and repeat over and over.

In “You Gonna Fly,” Urban urges a girl to let her hair down and just have some fun. He’s a man interested in enjoying life, and he knows that if his partner joins him, she’ll have a great time. This song is great country-pop while still holding country roots and not going too mainstream.

The first ballad, “All For You,” feels a bit unfinished. Urban’s lyrics have been better, but at least the sentiment’s real.
Next is “Long Hot Summer,” which feels like it’s going to pick up the pace, but never really does. Though it’s yet another one of Urban’s summer-love anthems, it’s a welcome enough addition to the group.

The soft “Without You” represents country music in its purest form — just vocals and a banjo for most of the song. Urban leaves off the music production on this track and relies solely on the lyrics and the minimal musicality.

The verses of “Georgia Woods” drag on a bit, and the song would be skip-worthy if the chorus wasn’t a pick-me-up, changing the tone of the rest of the track.

Next up is “Right On Back to You,” which, pulls back the reins completely. Urban’s vocals are highlighted here, and for good reason. The song starts off with the sound of rainfall, which sets the tone, but Urban can deliver a ballad like no one else.

It was a wise choice to end such a short album with a song like “Shut Out the Lights,” which instead of easing us into the closing of the album, leaves us feeling energized and, possibly, feeling ready for a second listen of the CD. It’s a dynamic song, constantly changing from high-energy cymbal crashes to gentle drumbeats, only to be overlain with Urban’s smart and stylistically pleasing lyrics.

Listen Up: “You Gonna Fly,” “Right On Back to You,” “Shut Out the Lights”

The Verdict: Though there was a gap of over a year and a half, Urban’s newest release feels like it came too soon after the huge success of his previous album. And with a track list of only eight songs, it’s hard to create a great album as a whole, but there’s definitely a handful of gems.

Rascal Flatts — *Nothing Like This*

Rascal Flatts has, for a few years now, been the young face of modern country. And despite this album being the group’s seventh in just 10 years, the trio remains fresh and fun, always attracting a great number of fans.

“Why Wait” opens up the album with a strong country sound and a fun little tune about a guy not wanting to wait to get married because… well, it’s just a waste of time! It’s a good song, but not a good opener.

Next, “Easy” is a power ballad that features guest vocals by Natasha Bedingfield. He’s acting as if his recent break-up wasn’t bad, “but what she don’t know is how hard it is to make it look so easy.”

Christian-inspired “Sunday Afternoon” follows, and feels like it wants to be a faster song than it really is. Still, it’s a good song as a whole, and it ranks among the better songs on the album.

“Play” is another song that you just imagine is really fun for the guys to perform because it’s an easy-going beat with simple lyrics about simple things making life exciting.

“Nothing Like This” makes use of the twang of the banjo, a gentle background to the romantic tune.

Up next is “All Night to Get There,” which is an energetic, musically exciting song about taking it easy. The lyrics “We got nowhere to be and all night to get there” are truly appropriate for blasting the song in a car.

“Red Camaro” is an easy-going summer song, but it fails to be memorable.

“They Try” slows down the pace and seems to be more of a movie soundtrack song than a track from a Rascal Flatts album; unfortunately, this description isn’t meant to carry a positive connotation here.

Next up, “Summer Young” features a strong drumbeat and lyrics reflecting signature summer themes, such as “that boardwalk you and I strolled down, lights dancing on the water from the merry-go-round.”

“Tonight Tonight” keeps up the pace from the previous song as the singer talks about his excitement before he meets up with his special someone.

Closing out the album with “I Won’t Let Go,” Rascal Flatts lays us down gently with a meaningful promise that drips with honesty and emotion.

Listen Up: “Easy,” “Summer Young,” “Tonight Tonight”

The Verdict: Unfortunately, a lot of the songs end up blurring together, and it’s hard to distinguish them from Rascal Flatts’ previous songs. The album is great for playing at a summer party or lounging by the pool, but almost all of the songs fail to mesmerize.