Real Country Music
It’s All Good
Take It Off/ The More I Look /Somebody’s Mama*/ It’s All Good*/ This Ole Boy/ I Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You/ No Truck, No Boat, No Girl/ Never Gonna Get Enough*/ She’s Just Like That*/ How I Wanna Go*
Produced by Buddy Cannon
*Produced by Mark Wright
Show Dog-Universal Music
After releasing a well received Greatest Hits collection earlier this year, Joe is set to begin a new stage of his career. It’s All Good serves as his jumping off point. Perhaps more cohesive than most of his previous releases (all of which are among my favorites of the last decade, I might add), his latest may best be described as solidly safe.
Starting with “Take It Off”, his latest chart climber, Joe firmly keeps his feet planted in the past and in the present, a goal set by Joe himself. His press release includes the quote, “I want to bring a traditional sound to 2011 and 2012, to keep it faithful, and make sure we’re still connecting with today’s listener.” An ambitious goal, to say the least, but Joe seems up to the challenge.
“Take It Off” has found over a million views on You Tube. So, today’s listener seems engaged. Of course, its fun summertime vibe coupled with banjo and Joe’s classic delivery does much not to totally alienate fans of tradition. The track is definitely not the country of Brokenhearstville, but does stay more grounded than the number one reaching Gimme That Girl of 2009.
Track two started to worry me. “The More I Look” is guitar driven with a fast almost recitation of the lyric. With lines like “the more I look, the more I like, the more I want to take you home tonight”, the song might feel more at home on a Montgomery Gentry record, and if that’s your thing, you’ll very much like the track. However, with a voice like Joe’s, I would think the album would have deserved something less obvious and “now”.
Thankfully, the next few tracks are among the best Joe has ever recorded. The David Lee Murphy and Kim Tribble penned “Somebody’s Mama”, track three, has Joe thinking of a missed lost love and realizing she‘s probably “somebody’s Mama now”. With a nice steel intro and a clever twist on a traditional theme, the track is a standout.
Also a standout, and maybe the highlight of the disc, is “It’s All Good”. Twin fiddles begin the laidback very country track. After a list of woes, the song ends with “I don’t get blue, I don’t get mad……If I’ve learned one thing from the year I had…..it’s even if it all goes bad….it’s all good”. Because he is “as happy as a man can be….as long as you’re here next to me…..I got it made”.
As simple as the song may sound, the arrangement is timeless, and it could easily have been a hit, as is, for George Strait, Merle Haggard, or Gene Watson. Joe should be thankful he found it…..Hopefully, Show Dog has a hit with it and the formula is used more and more. It is simply perfect for Joe’s vocals and phrasing.
“This Ole Boy” also celebrates being with the right one but this time in an arrangement similar to the loosely described modern country soul of those like Billy Currington. Joe turns in a nice vocal, but the song is too much like what others might do for Joe to fully claim. The ok track suffers even more so in following “It’s All Good”. Some may also recognize the track as being the current single for Craig Morgan.
“I Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” is about what the title suggests. Reading the lyric sheets, I was surprised that the arrangement wasn’t as simple as lines such as “You could tell me there’s two full moons hangin’ up there in the sky….wish I could turn my head and see that too….but…” Perhaps sensing the track needed a boost, the harmonies of Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski were brought in to elevate the track. The final result is a track that works, but honestly, I would have liked that the vulnerability we feel in a time like this be shown as well. And I think Joe is more than capable of delivering both.
Track seven, “No Truck, No Boat, No Girl”, made me pause a bit when reading the title. I feared that Joe was entering into that place of boat references that has grown as tired as claims of how country you are. But thankfully, the track speaks of losing everything after making “one big mistake” in a relationship. It is the notion of wishing for yesterday and everything he once had, delivered in a way just clever enough to shine a bit of humor on the circumstances. Being among my favorites on the disc, and a hit waiting to happen, hopefully this serves as a single.
The superbly delivered “Never Gonna Get Enough” speaks of all the things that someone can now say no too. Leaving only the “good kinda of high” of “your love” to be the one “habit” he’s “still dependant on”.
“She’s Just Like That” tells of someone almost too good to be true. How lucky could someone be to find someone who “spends her mornin’ talkin’ to Jesus and at night it’s wine and an old Keith Whitley song.” Yes, and apparently, she is really just like that and “that’s just how she is”, and he readily admits that “heaven only knows” how she does it. My pick for the best of the sentimental tracks found throughout the disc.
Fans of Joe know that he often closes his disc with something very introspective. It’s All Good is no exception. “How I Wanna Go” tells of how he “used to think” he would “go out with a bang”. And that he would pass early in life. But now he would prefer taking it slow and sailing away with her alone. While filled with sentimentality, the track manages to say more than simply I love you. About the song, Joe offers, “It’s a more introspective song about the turnaround of a life because of a girl. It’s very much like me—you take the last ten years of my life, it pretty much sums it up in a song.” His attachment to the song shows in a delivery that expresses the many thoughts and layers of the lyric.
Joe has always attempted to straddle the line of being very commercial and real country artistry. At times this has left his albums to feel a bit disjointed. This pattern has followed him since placing “The Impossible” next to “Brokenheartsville” on his first release and continued through putting “Believers” with “An Old Friend Of Mine” and “Old Things New” on his last collection of new material.
With It’s All Good, the disc, as a whole, flows more smoothly. As a complete work it may be his finest. But some tracks still remain better showcases of his abilities than others, which is unfortunate. I would like to see Joe take the world by storm and release an album that completely kicks the doors of Country Music wide open. There is no doubt he is among the finest singers of the modern era, and, at times, this disc shows his status as such is very secure. But it’s when the other tracks pale in comparison that the album as a whole suffers. A complete album of greatness is still yet to come.
That being said, I’m happy it’s in my collection.