Published Aug 30, 2017In the last few years, the largest influence on new country has been R&B — especially R&B from the mid to late '90s. It can be heard in Sam Hunt's monster hit, "Body Like a Back Road," and seen in interviews such as Kelsea Ballerini's with Vulture, in which she talks about the overlap between genres. A secondary influence has been meat and potatoes rock'n'roll — slightly grungy, slightly hair metal-y — which can be heard in the music of Eric Church and Chris Stapleton.
The smoothness of Kip Moore's music might evoke R&B seduction, but he spends his (overly long, singularly focused) new album, Slowheart, going all in on grungy rock. There are genuine treats resulting from Moore's formal choices: The intricate fretwork, fast and nimble, that introduces the song "The Bull" absorbs and argues with most of Southern rock tradition; and the genuinely bitchy "The Blonde," the track that grinds against a serpentine instrumental line, making the lyrical payoff line, "You ain't even blonde girl / or even true to your roots," even more sinister.
The intersection of the musical adroitness and lyrics about women suggests a central problem with Moore's vision, though. Moore drinks in celebration, in anger, to explain lust, or work through problems of desire. This drinking often leads to sex (see "Plead the Fifth"), but often seems the necessary lubricant to self-aggrandizement or even necessary to play music.
Some of these songs are well-written, some are cock-of-the-walk posturing and some are just silly or just cryptic — on "I've Been Around," he sings "I've been covered up with peaches / On Georgia's dirty beaches."
It's not that country music doesn't have its share of drinking songs, or sex songs, or drinking songs masquerading as sex songs, but it's rare that we have 13 songs over an hour with such singular focus. I'm not sure that's a good thing, but the music almost convinces. (Universal Music Nashville)