Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Critic’s Corner- CD Album Review- John Rich- Rich Rocks

“Combine a healthy amount of testosterone, frat party, ego and redneck attitude and blend well. That’s the recipe for John Rich’s album Rich Rocks. It’s a brand new niche of music called hillbilly rave music.

With special urban guest stars Kid Rock, Lil’ John and longtime Big & Rich collaborator Cowboy Troy, it’s a mix-up of ripping electric guitar with some representative fiddle. By his own admission on “Texas”, Rich defines his style as “raunchy, rude, rowdy and reckless.” It thumps along with all six tracks that blend into one-another as rocking background noise.

The challenge I have with the album is that Rich can do better. We’ve seen it. We’ve seen a deep and thoughtful side with outstanding Rich penned-tracks such as Big and Rich’s “8th of November” and “Holy Water”, his solo “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” and Faith Hill’s introspective “Mississippi Girl.” If there’s one thing we learned from The Apprentice, it is that there’s more to the country bravado. And it’s missing here to the determent of the album.”

John Rich has always brought a hip-hop style to country music, if not with the early sounds of Big and Rich, then with the way he carries himself. He drives expensive cars, irritates his neighbors and isn’t afraid to flash the bling. He also walks with enviable confidence, as exemplified by the title of his new album, ‘Rich Rocks,’ available at digital retailers today.

These aren’t criticisms. They’re the qualities that separate the ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ finalist from other solo male singers in the genre. At his best, his songs aren’t just the life of the party, they are the party. No one does loud like John Rich, and ‘Rich Rocks’ begins with the very loud ‘Country Done Come to Town,’ by far the best track on the six-pack.”

“You have to question John Rich's motives when he opens a CD titled "Rich Rocks" with a track titled Country Done Come To Town. What is he: A rocker or a country boy? Well, it turns out, like most popular country stars these days, he's a little of both. (Oh, and he also thinks he's a little rap, too). 

Texas features Cowboy Troy, a longtime friend of Big & Rich. The song is not really rap, however, as it mostly speaks about how you take the boy out of Texas, but you can't take the Texas out of the boy. Kid Rock also helps on Mack Truck, but he hasn't really been a rap performer for a long time now. Lil John is the rap-ist of them all, but You Had Me from Hell No, with its gutsy electric guitar and fiddle, is much more in Rich's camp than Lil Jon's. 

"Rich Rocks" is consistent; there isn't a ballad in the half-dozen. However, it doesn't truly rock in, say, the AC/DC sense. These are loud country tunes, which won't sound all that out of place on country radio. They all rock about as hard as Carrie Underwood's Undo It, which is not very hard at all. Kid Rock, Jr., Rich certainly ain't.”
One listen to the EP's debut single is enough to tell you how fitting the title is.  Indeed, "Country Done Come to Town," and it done brought some rock and roll with it.  This is one of those hell-raising country-rock anthems that was a trademark of Big and Rich.  But on the bright side, the country is at least almost as audible as the rock.  The prominent fiddle is a nice touch, and it barely avoids being drowned out by the heavy beat and the guitar riffs.  Thus, to John's credit, the song does not sound "fingernails-on-chalkboard" awful. (I hate to think about what this song would sound like if given the Jason Aldean treatment)

But the cold hard truth is that there's nothing on this track that we haven't heard a million times before, both on country radio in general, and on past Big and Rich albums.  The "I'm so country" claim lost credibility a long time ago.  This is poor timing for the release of another such song.  John should be branching out into different themes with his solo releases, rather than constantly returning to this tired formula.  Overall, "Country Done Come to Town" ends up sounding like a cheap rehash of "Comin' to Your City.  And that song wasn't even worth rehashing in the first place.”

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