Album Review – Aaron Lewis Of Staind “The Road”

January 8, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  38 Comments

aaron-lewisYes, Aaron Lewis, the ultra-emotional singer from Staind that done “gone country” a couple of years back has a new album called The Road, and I have to say, this was not nearly as bad as I was expecting.

Aaron Lewis busted onto the country scene like a ruptured colostomy bag with his gawd awful single “Country Boy” late in 2010. Going back and reading my review, I wasn’t impressed. Then last Spring Lewis released the lead single from The Road called “Endless Summer” that wasn’t much better, name dropping Jason Aldean among other atrocities.

So I wasn’t giving The Road much of a chance until my inbox began to fill with messages from folks swearing this album had something. So reluctantly, like a dog contritely contemplating its own fresh vomit, I gave it a timid sniff. Next thing I knew my nose was buried deep in The Road.

Fundamentally, this album suffers from similar issues as Arron’s first two singles. As a country music outsider, Lewis seems to rely too much on songwriting formulas, and tends to get political on your ass in a way that comes across as pandering to demographics instead of a byproduct of sincere songwriting. But beyond those transgressions, and the “Endless Summer” single that’s clearly a play for radio attention, The Road is a hard country, steel guitar, half-time, waltz beat, honest-to-goodness honky tonk album with some surprisingly good moments.

I can’t believe I typed that last sentence, but it’s true. The Road sucks in the real country listener with the first two tracks “75” and “The Road” that are just good, straightforward honky tonk road songs with no pretense, no transgressions, just simple music with an honest message. Then of course The Road hits a speed bump with the awful “Endless Summer,” but that song is so bad you can just write it off completely and move on.

An important thing to remember is just because a song is real country, doesn’t mean it is real good. Most of the songs on The Road are solidly real country from a sonic standpoint, but there are still some misses. “Red, White, and Blue” has a classic country sound, but it’s sullied by a really formulaic approach to the lyrics. They’re full of bravado about how poor his grandparents were and how he’s the offspring of people who fought in the military. But all you can think is that devoid of any true country or military cred himself, Lewis is attempting to supplant that cred from his ancestors.

aaron-lewis-the-roadIn the end an otherwise well-crafted song is relegated to a braggadocios, glorified family portrait with Aaron looking like the one that broke the traditions instead of carrying them on. A similar feeling pervades “Granddaddy’s Gun,” that would be a very warm story about a family artifact if Arron didn’t use it to interject his political views.

Subtly of message is not a skill that Aaron Lewis possesses. “State Lines” also has some unhealthy, self-indulgent bravado as Lewis endeavors to write his own history instead of living it and writing compelling stories from it. That’s one of the differences between rock and country Aaron has yet to decipher, that bragging is for butt rock, while country is the format of aw-shucks. Ironically, his classic country style and sound make this discrepancy more obvious. If he was playing laundry list “new Outlaw” country pop, then he’d just be following the herd. Here, his novice approach to country lyricism is glaring in spots.

But its impressive in others, like “Lessons Learned” that despite name dropping Johnny Cash, displays a lot of depth in songcraft and vocal range. A past gripe about Lewis has been his droning monotone voice in both his country and Staind material. But I’ll be damned if The Road doesn’t give rise to Lewis showcasing some remarkable and refreshing vocal dexterity and range on a number of occasions. Something else refreshing about his voice is there’s no put-on Southern accent at all. At times the music and lyrics beg for it. But to Aaron’s credit, he abstains.

“Anywhere But Here” is another selection that shows curious, refreshing depth, though this is chased by “Party in Hell” that otherwise would be a fun, rocking end to the album if it wasn’t for the incessant name dropping in it. Waylon, Whitley, Haggard, “No Show”, Jimmy, Janis, and on and on.

Despite the forays into depth and the deep tie to the roots of the music in The Road, Arron Lewis proves he’s still green to the genre. From a broad view, it’s best put that it is a classic country album with mainstream country lyrics. But The Road also has something that is typically neglected in many modern albums: a theme. To have a universal thread to run along the backbone of the songs always makes an album greater than the sum of its parts, and Aaron employs this well in The Road.

I’m going to eek out a positive review here, meaning I don’t recommend this album, but if someone told me they loved it, I wouldn’t argue with them either. Worth a sniff maybe, but Aaron Lewis still has to grow as a lyricist if he seriously wants to be considered a true country artist. At the same time, kudos to him for the growth displayed on The Road. I’ve been hard on this dude over the years, and it’s good to see him at least make beginning motions in the right direction.

1 1/4 of 2 guns up.

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Preview & Purchase Tracks from The Road.

38 Comments to “Album Review – Aaron Lewis Of Staind “The Road””

  • Half these tunes should be sung by Kenny Chesney and the other half by Whitey Morgan. None should be sung by this douche bag.

    • I’d agree’ but I’d put the ratio at 1/3 Kenney Chesney songs, 2/3 rds Whitey. I also won’t argue with anyone not willing to give him a chance at this point. You can’t make that many mistakes starting out, and then expect everyone to warm up to you when you finally start to do some things right.

  • I skipped the review and went right down to the preview track. I liked the intro and then he started singing and I went “ughhh…sounds droning..like,..I dunno, that dude from Stained or something”

    Then I went to the top and started reading. How bout that.

  • In my opinion, lyrics tell a story. Good lyrics tell a good story. Great lyrics tell my story. As someone who works in the oilfield and misses holidays, birthdays, and everything else worth living, these lyrics really hit home for me and that 5:40 flew by too fast. I liked it.

    • As for the vocals, at least on this song, to me it’s not monotonous as much as tired. I spent 3 months offshore and by the time I got off the rig just having a conversation with anyone was work. You get to a point where being homesick and that longing to just be home makes anything else just not worth the bother, annunciation be damned.

      Did I mention I liked it?

  • “That’s one of the differences between rock and country Aaron has yet to decipher, that bragging is for butt rock, while country is the format of aw-shucks”.

    This is a very true statement with one exception…DAC hah!

    I can’t believe I read this review. As I a reader, I can tell how difficult it was for you to do this. I can imagine you covering your eyes as you clicked the submit button reluctantly. But, all joking aside, this is a good write up. Keep ‘em comin’.

  • After reading your review & listening to the previews on amazon I think I might end up likeing him. There are basicly three types of artist to me. Ones who’s albums I buy, ones who’s Greatest Hits I buy & ones who I buy nothing from. Judgeing from the previews I think he’ll end up as a Greatest Hits artist for me.

    • Shouldn’t you be able to actually produce a “hit” to make a “greatest hits” album? :)

      • Right on!!! Some folks should only be allowed to release a “Best of” record and not a “Greatest Hits”

    • Aaron Lewis strikes me as one whose “Greatest Hits” would be all the radio crap, while the cool cuts on an album like this get left on the cutting house floor.

      • Your probebly right, but I hope he improves enough between now & the time he releases on that it would be at least good.

  • hmm. that song is a whole lot better than i expected it to be. i probably won’t buy the album, but i don’t know, that track was pretty enjoyable really.

  • I don’t doubt that Rogers’ political views are sincere. However, I get the feeling that he decided to switch to country music just to write his second rate political songs.

    I happen to agree with a lot of what he has to say (though inarticulately). However, most fans of mainstream country already agree with him too, and there is no shortage of those types of songs the radio. If he really wanted to give his message to someone other than the choir he could have written these songs as Nu Metal or whatever he played with Staind is called.

  • 75 is a good song. I’ll be damned.

  • Just a minor point, but I just listened to Grandaddy’s Gun. I think the lyrics are a bit cheesy, but how does he “interject his political views” into the song?

    • I haven’t heard the lyrics, but I wonder if he really referred to his Grandfather as his “Granddaddy.” I know Western Mass is more rural than closer to Boston, but still.

      • More rural? Hell, once you get into western Mass you might as well be in a different world than Boston. Especially once you get into the Berkshire, you might as well be in Upstate New York. We’re also far more Republican than the Eastern part of the state. That’s why I’m starting to get sick of the whole “Need to be from down south with a twang to make it” part of country That’s also why so many of us up here like him.

        • I was just wondering if he was pandering. I’m originally from the NYC northern suburbs where I didn’t have to travel to far to be in the sticks and I went to college in Western New York. I’ve known a lot of people from rural parts of Upstate New York and I wonder if any of the guys would refer to their father as Daddy or grandfather as Granddaddy. I could very well be wrong.

          I agree with your point about not having to be from “down south” to be truly be a country artist. New Englanders Peter Rowan (once was Bill Monroe’s lead singer and has had his own illustrious career in bluegrass) and Dan Tyminski (from AKUS and sang Man of Constant Sorrow on the O Brother soundtrack) are two that did alright for themselves. And there are many other artists that I have been turned on to on this site that hail from outside the South.

        • Western Massachusetts is actually the most Democratic part of the state aside from urban Boston. It’s much more Democratic than Central Massachusetts, Southeastern Massachusetts, or the Boston suburbs.

  • Pretty good review just by judging the previews. Definitely a few tracks that are exceptional and a few that make me cringe.

  • I’m actually a huge fan of Aaron Lewis’ solo acoustic work. You can listen to/see a lot of it on Youtube. His cover of “Turn The Page” by Bob Seger is a particular favorite. I’m not a big fan of Staind, and not a big fan of his “country”.

    I’ve listened to “75” twice now, and while it is real country, Aaron’s voice just seems out of place. It’s got that New England rock sound to it, somewhere between Bruce Springsteen and Sully Erna, and though the lyrics are well-written, and the instrumentals are damn-near perfect, the vocals just seem like they don’t fit the rest of the piece. If he were to record this song with edgier instrumentals, or even cut it as a solo acoustic piece, it might be better, but then it might not be country.

    All of that said, Aaron is a talented singer-songwriter and guitarist, and he IS getting better at country music, and if this is where he wants to be, he should continue to push forward and work at it, what I’ve heard of this album is a big improvement over his first effort (though I loved the music video version of “Country Boy”, even if it was a laundry-list-style song), and I do believe he has the talent to grow.

    • “I’ve listened to “75″ twice now, and while it is real country, Aaron’s voice just seems out of place. ”

      I thought it sounded somewhat like Kenny Chesney’s voice if Kenny smoked a couple of packs a day.

  • This is the kind of crap even crap would call crap.

  • I’ve listened to it a few times and I think “75” is a good song, but the verses sound an awful lot like Old Habits by Bocephus. The choruses remind me of Cowboys Like Us by George Strait. Not trying to insinuate anything here, just saying it sounds like stuff I’ve heard many times before.

    • That goes back to my theory that he relies too much on formulas. I just don’t think he’s familiar enough with country music to know where the well-worn grooves are to stay out of them, so he comes across as cliche in places.

      • Trigger, I might suggest it isn’t “formula” he is copying, but to me Lewis is someone influenced by many artists, Waylon to Chesney, and he doesn’t have his own style, he just changes up some lyrics and music a bit, but he doesn’t sound original at all.

        He tries way to hard to remind you that he has some country cred. Trying to make every song an autobiogrpahy of bad ass or country ass-ness doesn’t play well IMHO.

      • Nonsense. He knows all about Jason Aldean and those other trailblazers. He even said as much on this album.

  • Aaron’s country stuff is really no different from what he’s done in his solo acoustic shows for years. I’ve seen Staind life a couple of times at festivals ‘ the one thing I’ve taken away is that they are 500% better live than recorded & Aaron Lewis actually has fairly good vocal range. Surprisingly good. Certainly better than I expected. As for the political stuff, I believe it’s genuine. The man has actually done a lot of behind the scenes work to support our military & educate people about the Constitution. I’ve had exactly one conversation with him & it was about the writings of Thomas Paine & the need for people to educate themselves about history to avoid repeating it. I think the political stuff is genuine & I support his right to express it even if it comes across as formulaic at best. Is he a great country singer? Not even close but he has the ability to make the occasional good song & I’ll take his “country” material over most of Nashville because he’s at least coming from a place that’s true to himself. This is (mostly) the album he’s wanted to make for years & hats off to him for doing it without it being terrible. I’d give it a 6/10 which is fairly strong for mainstream country these days.

  • Wow, “75” was surprisingly good, and not just by the standard of a rocker gone country either. I’d be interested to see what the rest of the album sounds like.

  • Though I will admit “Country Boy” actually grabbed me the first time I heard it, It lost what little appeal it had very quickly. The above song (75?) did nothing for me. Though I am getting tired of these cigarettes…..

  • why aaron doin country? dats weak, i liked him better in limp bizkit

  • Are you fucking hicks kidding me by slamming Aaron Lewis????? this guy has more talent in his little finger then most losers on CMT. Go and see him live and you will see a real artist….the man can sing ANYTHING in tune and pitch that will give you goose bumps. Expand your horizons and stop living in the generic music days of garth Brooks, Kenny chessney, Tim McGraw, etc..the list goes on…those guys are done…….

    • Yes, Kenny Chessney and Tim McGraw receive TONS of love around here…..

  • While many will pick an artist apart based on a radio edited sounding album, I heard “The Road” for the first time and based on just the lyrics (words) I instantly wanted to hear more. Yes country music is used more as a speaking platform, as a few have mentioned in their comments “Aaron Lewis” speaks based on his life and his real beliefs. In Rock it is harder to speak your “political” mind, as most listeners just want the usual lyrics to be written. If you want to hear an exceptional and one of the best “live” artists you will ever see, then book a ticket to see Aaron Lewis in the flesh. This man has the ability to reach levels that I didn’t know was possible with his voice (along with the current stories with vulgar language, which was funny as heck). He is worth every penny and does many “lone” acoustic workings during his shows, truly one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

    • I agree with this. He puts on an unreal show. Just go on YouTube and watch the covers he sings to get an idea. People saying he has no vocal range have no idea what they’re talking about unless they see him in person. His shows aren’t very “country”, so I’m sure 95% of this site won’t like it, but it’s an amazing pure music experience.

  • This Album is actually WORSE than his Town Line EP. He is actually trying to sing now with a southern twang , which sounds even more fake than his lyrics.

  • “Going back and reading my review, I wasn’t impressed.”

    I wasn’t impressed with your review, either :P . Just kidding. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit and found it to be more than a little enlightening at the time.

  • Aaron lewis has written every one of his songs minus granddaddies gun. The man is ultra talented in all aspects of music. His songs are written with real emotion, unlike 90% of the other artists out there in all genres of music. His single Country Boy is a story of his life and his life has a political side just as each of us have different facets to their lives. He interjects the things he believes in and feels into his music. I would rate this review a smoking turd AT BEST

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