On the evidence of this debut album, Eric Paslay is an amazingly mature, self-aware and assured artist. His songs and stories are a direct connection for listeners seeking depth and meaning in the day-to-day struggles of life. He first made an impact in Nashville as a songwriter, penning a trio of number one country hits: Even If It Breaks Your Heart (Eli Young Band), Barefoot Blue Jean Night (Jake Owen) and Angel Eyes (Love & Theft). With this collection of mainly co-written songs he demonstrates sharp songwriting skills and a strong voice. He hits his stride on every track; flush with uncommon spirit, he opens strongly with Keep On Fallin’, an infectious, up-tempo tune that celebrates the joys of falling in love - very direct communication he delivers it with passion and vibrancy. He continues in that good-timey, optimistic mood with the celebratory Friday Night.
He then changes tack with Less Than Whole, a thoughtful treatise on grace and forgiveness. Country Side Of Heaven is a eulogy to the delights of simple country life; his ability to conjure compelling images enrich both his sound and his story. I immediately connected to Never Really Wanted¸ an intuitive song about seeing a woman in a different light and kicking oneself for a missed opportunity. Both Good With Wine and She Don’t Love display Paslay’s thoughtful, contemplative side of his emotive range. The latter is a tender and moving love ballad complete with a stunning string arrangement courtesy of the multi-skilled Jonathan Yudkin. A Song About A Girl, opens quietly enough but then builds with a forceful attitude and a hand-waving chorus that will lift the top of your head off. He closes with Deep As It Is Wide, a potent anthem about the hope that there is something bigger and better than us.
An excellent album that melds the modern country and power pop genres with captivating ease, although the set does occasionally suffer from a sameness in production, but its bevy of strong, catchy songs is appropriate compensation.