When I heard Aaron Lewis had a full blown country album in the works, I was not intrigued. I wasn't a fan of his EP last year, and the lead single, "Endless Summer" was pretty bland in my opinion. So, I went in to this album expecting nothing, and I am very pleasantly surprised to say that this album is pretty darn good.
"The Road" is a cool honkytonk number dealing with his outlaw ways while traveling. "State Lines" is right along those same lines. If I had to pick a weakness to this album, it would be that Aaron tries way too hard to sell the "outlaw" image. But, he does a much better job than some of the pretty boys on the radio. Nevertheless, both songs are still solid country mid tempo numbers with solid backbeats that make you want to cruise down the road and sing along.
When Aaron gets sentimental, this album really takes off. "Red White and Blue" is a patriotic anthem, but doesn't sound like a partisan flag waver, but more of a simple tribute to his family's deep love of country. "Anywhere But Here" is one that really makes you stop and pay attention. It's a great country ballad with big vocals and solid country backing. This is where his big Staind growling vocals are best displayed. The song "Grandaddy's Gun" is the only one written by someone else, penned by the Peach Pickers (Rhett Atkins and Dallas Davidson) and Bobby Pinson. It's a great heartfelt tune about the special bond between a boy and a passed down gun can have. Country songs about guns can be cliche and trite, but this one feels right. It's not incredibly complicated, but it is good.
The deluxe version of the album features live acoustic versions of a few of the albums cuts, and a few other numbers, most notably a cover of the Jeffrey Steele penned hit "What Hurts The Most" made famous by Rascal Flatts. By taking the big production of Flatts away from the song and focusing on the lyrics and the emotion. The result is a much deeper and more relatable song. Kudos to him for taking that risk, it really paid off.
The album certainly isn't perfect. It overdoes the outlaw thing, and some songs (looking at you, "Endless Summer") are pretty cheesy. I understand it is about his daughters and personal to him, I get that, but I really can't get into that song. The song "Party In Hell" also really overdoes the "outlaw" image, and is a little dark for my taste. Overall though, this is a solid album with real country music that shouldn't be overlooked. Who woulda thunk the tattooed frontman of Staind would provide some of the best honkytonk music the mainstream has offered in awhile? I strongly reccomend this album, go check it out!
Standout Tracks: "75", "Granddaddy's Gun" "Anywhere But Here"