John Rich "Son Of A Preacher Man" (Warner Bros, 2009)
Baby you're a Rich man
I'm not a huge fan of 'Country' Country if you get my meaning. I always found the Nashville hit making machine to produce uninspired and one dimensional radio fodder - obsessed with making music without substance. You can dance to it, but it won't change the world or my opinion of it.
I've been to Nashville and I've stood on the stage at the Grand Ole' Opry and I've met a few of Nashville's finest and I liked all of them without fail. But I had my doubts when I first placed the new John Rich CD in the tray. That is John Rich, half of Big and Rich, songwriter to the Nashville all stars, bassist with Lonestar and genuine Nashville Royalty. Cut him in half and he's red, white and American blue. So, can I be persuaded by the man who had a hand in writing "Save a horse, Ride a cowboy"? He can write a hook, a hit and a good song but where does 'Son of a Preacher Man' fit in?
And here's the sixty four million dollar question. If some of these songs were sung by Steve Earle, or John Mellencamp or even Springsteen, would my opinion of it change because they are not Nashville and are not 'Country' whereas some of the sentiments and stylistic tricks would undoubtedly be similar?
'Shutting Detroit Down' is a searing indictment of Corporate America albeit written with an eye for a headline. Writing about the man on main street rather than wall street is not going to gain him universal praise - however - this is also a son of the south pointing the finger at the New York and Washington elite - which is more predictable. 'Trucker Man' steals the riff from 'Copperhead Road', but instead of moonshine and weed this is a fairly simple narrative lauding the lifestyle of the American Big Riggers and celebrating their patriotism as opposed to Vietnam vets hiding from the DEA.
'The Good Lord and the Man' recounts the story of a WWII veteran and tells us that they'd "all be speaking German, living under the flag of Japan" if it weren't for the sacrifice of the armed forces and God. Noble sentiments I'm sure, but I'm a cynical pacifist Brit and I don't do overt religion. Probably not my song I guess.
'Another You' is a mawkish country ballad - then again so is 'Lose your love' and 'Thought you'd never ask' - but I could see anyone of hundreds of MOR rockers singing any of these. 'Why Does Somebody Always have to Die' is the best song Bon Jovi didn't put on 'Slippery When Wet' and makes me ask the question a second time more in hope than expectation. Unfortunately, 'Everybody wants to be Me' is the personal rags to Riches narrative, but illicits as much sympathy as a premiership footballer pleading poverty. 'Turn a Country Boy On' doesn't (I mean West Country of course). Whereas Rich should be applauded for broadening the scope and sticking up for the little man, the soldiers and the good old US of A, he does so with such a broad brush that he makes Jeremy Kyle or Rush Limbaugh appear balanced. I almost feel embarrassed at having mentioned Earle, Mellencamp and Springsteen in the review, but, (and this is the crux), their sentiments, although ideologically different and in my opinion done in a far more credible way, are not so dissimilar. The outright flag waving may not appeal to me, but will to countless others who read the News of the World or listen to Talk Radio USA.
Date review added: Monday, August 17, 2009
Reviewer: Andy Williams
Related web link: John Rich Official Site