Chase Rice - The Album
Broken Bow Records/BMG
This is Chase Rice’s fifth full-length album in a recording career that stretches back to 2010. As I listened to the 15 tracks, I thought that maybe he should have titled it: the Whoa-oh-oh album, as virtually every track seems to feature that annoying, unnecessary and frankly lazy chorus. Like all of the singer’s previous recordings, it’s being marketed towards a country audience, but like Marty Robbins’ A White Sport Coat, Ray Price’s For The Good Times, Crystal Gayle’s Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue, Ronnie Milsap’s Lost In the Fifties Tonight, Faith Hill’s Breathe and Florida Georgia Line’s Cruise, the majority of this album is not ‘country’ in the widely accepted country music parameters. What it is, is good quality rock-pop, with the occasional track that has hints of country. And I’ve found it makes for a pleasant listening experience.
Chase has enjoyed a kind of rollercoaster ride to his current position, starting off on small independent labels, he signed with Columbia in 2014 and released IGNITE THE NIGHT, which went gold. Following the relative failure of his next three singles at country radio, he left the label in 2017 and a few months later joined Broken Bow, finally scoring his first number one hit with Eyes On You in 2019. Despite this success, LAMB & LIONS, his fourth album, sold poorly. Last year he released a pair of EPs—THE ALBUM PART 1 and 2—the eleven tracks from those, plus four new tracks, comprise THE ALBUM, which is receiving a major promotional push both Stateside and over here in the UK. Big and portentous, this record sounds like the work of a man who knows he’s about to crack it …this is music to get lost in!
Though Chase Rice’s musical interests extend beyond the rock-pop hybrid that characterises his sound, he’s best known for a pleasant, if derivative vocal style that owes much to Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw. What makes this album rather special is the calculation of the songs and the production. The singer co-wrote all bar four of these songs with a combination of collaborators. These songs sound bolder, sharper and more confident than anything he’s done previously. The perception is that they sat in a room with dollar sign wallpaper, the plan to write songs designed to capture the imagination of the widest possible audience, with sticky choruses and repeated lines to insinuate the subconscious of the most obtuse listener. Most of them tap into the coming-of-age period when the adults in our lives begin to become fully formed human beings to us, rather than just abstract figures of authority; when a broken heart feels like the end of the world; when it feels like we can achieve just about anything we desire. He cleverly mines the complexities of trying to be better, to have more self-esteem and to navigate the joys and the pains of becoming fully-fledged adults and all that that entails.
He dresses up his take on the human condition in a variety of styles, from the rollick of the opening American Nights, an anthem of being young and fancy free despite the horrors lurking in the darkness, the shuffling Down Home Runs Deep and the nostalgic Best Night Ever to the hand-clapping singalong of Break Up Drunk.
Initially the lyrics of Everywhere feel and hurt and then the incongruous over-repeated lines and whoa-whoa chime in reducing emotional heartbreak to singalong glee, though a proactive listener will be more appreciative of the acoustic melodicism of Messy, a gentle, dreamy song of love affirmation. Lonely If You Are, Forever To Go and If I Didn’t Have You are very personal songs that include lyrical themes of love, memories and fear full of nuances and lyrical subtleties, designed to reel-in the kind of listener ready to be seduced by pop formulae.
Chase Rice’s THE ALBUM is mainly a positive and somewhat uplifting collection that might connect with some listeners regardless of whether they are country fans or not. Others may be put off by the bigness, by the near-limitless peaks and by all of those programmed beats, incessant hand claps and the over-done whoa-oh-ohs
called together by the singer and his various producers. Many more may feel competing sentiments, with a tussle between wanting to dive head-first into this giant, shimmering ocean of sound and then just being completely overwhelmed by all of it.