Album Review – Justin Moore’s “Off The Beaten Path”

October 16, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  32 Comments
“Johnny rocked, and Willie rolled, they just did it with a whole lot more soul
Just put a little old back in the new school, get that working man back on the bar stool
Just ’cause something’s hip don’t mean it’s cool. Just put a little old back in the new school”

justin-mooreThese are lines pulled from the opening track of Justin Moore’s new album Off The Beaten Path, and with a steel guitar riding high in the mix accompanying Justin’s imperatives and a wide-brimmed cowboy hat crowning his backlit visage splayed across the album cover, the distinguishing music listener who doesn’t care too much for today’s country radio may conclude they have just found a keeper.

Then of course a few songs later, Justin seems to forget his own proclamations and manages to name drop Kim Kardashian, J-Lo, Snoo P Double G, filch a line from “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” and even try his hand at country rapping. And that’s just in one song. Hey we’ve all got to eat, right?

Justin Moore’s 2011 album Outlaws Like Me was declared the worst album ever by Saving Country Music up to that moment in time; a diagnosis I still stand behind with puffed chest. Earlier this year when Moore somehow sniveled his way onto the lineup of Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic, as I stood 50 feet from the stage listening to Justin attempt to Svengali the crowd into believing that he was an industry outsider and one of the last champions of real country music, the only reason I didn’t rush the stage was because I didn’t have a good plan of what I would do when I got there, and I wanted to still be around later for Willie’s set.

Despite a few moments of respite, Off The Beaten Path is like an expeditionary campaign to discover and exploit every single worn out modern lyrical trope of American country music, and to try and make some new ones. Luke Bryan may be the latest of the discipline, but Justin Moore was the first to master disregarding any and all independent thinking or self-desired creative penchants to simply become the country music equivalent of Silly Putty for the suits to do whatever they choose with. And the fate they chose for Justin was to be Big Machine Record’s representative for attempting to re-integrate the revenue of anti-Nashville sentiment by misleading the public into believing Justin’s career was the result of a repressive industry looking to dog him at every turn because he was too country. Yes, he’s an Outlaw, bucking the system, flying in the face of artists like Taylor Swift….whom he shares the same record label with.

justin-moore-off-the-beaten-pathBut though it would be easy and romantic to declare Justin Moore’s 2013 offering as bad enough to depose 2011’s Outlaws Like Me at the shameful peak of crap mountain and use this album as a vehicle to vent any and all unresolved anger held over from my personal life in the form of the most venomous of rants, the real truth of the matter is that Off The Beaten Path is not nearly as bad as one would initially assume.

It’s still more bad than good without a doubt, with a strong contingent of country checklist songs eroding any redemptive moments on the album and then some. But I was surprised how unpredictable this album was, how some songs took a really progressive approach instead of just relying on rock guitar riffs, and how many slow, meaningful songs made the final cut.

The only reason the song “Old Back In The New School” could be considered bad is because it’s coming from Justin Moore, rendering it hypocritical. But on it’s own, it’s not too shabby. Neither is the slow and sincere duet with Miranda Lambert  “Old Habits.” In fact, it’s downright good, and wouldn’t be a bad contender for the “Vocal Event” categories of the big country award shows. If it weren’t for lines like “We work hard, play hard, take our paychecks straight to the Wal-Mart. Girls will out drink you, boys will out Hank you…” the song “This Kind Of Town” could really be something sensational in the way the song is crafted.

But unfortunately, that line does exist in the song, and so do a dozen other cringe-inducing moments on Off The Beaten Path. Really, it’s the words of this album that hold it back the most. There’s some authentic country instrumentation here, and some really sweet moments sonically. And then there’s songs like the title track that feel oh so cliche in both words and structure, and the aforementioned  country-rapping name-dropping abomination known as “I’d Want It To Be Yours” that will probably receive its own dedicated diagramming and ridicule in due course.

As bad as it is, I have to give Justin Moore and his songwriters credit for guile in crafting the song “Country Radio” that will flatter every programming manager from coast to Clear Channel coast and probably make it into radio rotations despite its shortcomings. “For Some Ol’ Redneck Reason” that features a crotchety, borderline disturbing appearance from Charlie Daniels in a moment of token Patriotism probably won’t. Whatever happened to going to LA via Omaha?

But color me surprised. Certainly not a good album, and I’m definitely not recommending it. But on Off The Beaten Path, Justin Moore peels himself off the very bottom of the country music mat, and proves that maybe if he wasn’t such a tool, he would have a little something.

1 ½ of 2 guns down. 2 of 5 stars.

32 Comments to “Album Review – Justin Moore’s “Off The Beaten Path””

  • “But on Off The Beaten Path, Justin Moore peels himself off the very bottom of the country music mat, and proves that maybe if he wasn’t such a tool, he would have a little something.”

    Haha I’m damn ear crying here!

    • *near

  • Justin Moore is an artist, and poop is his medium. “Outlaws Like Me” was his masterpiece, I’m not surprised his subsequent work fell short.

  • Extremely disappointed with this album. I was hoping he’d pull his head outta his ass after the last one. I’ll admit that I was a fan of his debut album.

  • Some more Hank name drops, I see. You know damn well these guys don’t go anywhere near a Hank album when nobody’s around.

    • Pretty sure most of these guys are talking about Bocephus.

  • I was also at Willie’s 4th of July picnic. I couldn’t believe it when Justin Moore said “I’m not into that pop country crap” or something like that. I was like, wtf dude you ARE pop country. Lmao

    • So you are putting him in the same boat as Cunter Gays, Taylor fucking Swift and all that other crap that’s out there? Please tell me how country you are…

  • Really? You couldn’t figure out you needed to punch him in his tone deaf ear and run like hell into the crowd? I’m disappointed, Trigger, I figured you to be quicker on your feet than that! :)

  • Ironically, the first I had ever heard of Justin Moore was about a year before his debut album, when he opened for Hank Jr. I overlooked the phony persona and bad dancing and thought he might have some real talent. At the time, pop country was more Rascall Flatts than Jason Aldean.

    I have no intentions of listening to this album. But, I do think it may be possible for a guy like him to pull a Kellie Pickler at some point in his career, if he gets the balls to do it. He’s not the A-lister that Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean is. Nashville would drop him the minute he stops producing.

    He solely wrote the best song on his debut, an acoustic ballad called “Grandpa.” It’s a little trite, but it’s honest and heartfelt. He COULD do it if he wanted. maybe there’s still hope, I actually like his voice.

  • You want to know why ‘Old Habits’ is good? Mostly because it filches large chunks of its melody from ‘Colder Weather’ by the Zac Brown Band. Seriously, listen to both of those songs and tell me you don’t hear the similarities. And as much as I kind of like Miranda Lambert, her duet with Keith Urban earlier this year was better than her collaboration with Justin Moore (particularly considering the songs’ subject matter was so similar).

    Yeah, I hate this album with a passion, the one decent standout for me being ‘One Dirt Road’, which I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and say it sounds sincere enough. But the lyrics are awe-inspiring in how bad they are, and it earns a 3/10 without question. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4DgDsObjk4

    But of course, the mainstream public doesn’t want to hear that, and thus I ended up getting shat all over, with the common defense of Moore’s music being ‘Justin Moore could beat you up, you p**** f****t’.

    • And it goes back to exactly what you said toward the beginning of your review: when the feedback loop between an “artist” and ones fanbase becomes so all-encompassing that it reinforces ideology and political beliefs.

      All those who have directly commented on your video viewed your review as a political statement, rather than what it naturally is……….an objective review. They view anything that affronts Moore in a less than desirable light as not just a character assassination, but a repudiation of their own tightly-clung values systems and convictions.

      It’s depressing, but predictable! =/

  • As much as I respect your honest opinion here, Trigger, this is easily the worst album I’ve heard thus far this year, and if not quite as bad as “Outlaws Like Me”, certainly on its cusp.

    You already address aspects of its songwriting, but let me expose a few other examples of how atrocious this album is lyrically.

    Firstly, look to the lead single “Point At You” and “That’s How I Know You Love Me”. What’s disturbing about both these songs on a lyrical level is how they romanticize this long-hashed trope of a bad boy who a “good girl” is trying to save. The idea that the narrator egregiously admits in “Point At You” that he has no positive attributes and just points to his love interest when asked if he has a good side is pretty depressing and pathetic if you ask me. And with the latter track, the idea that you know someone loves you because “You don’t try to change me, you just try to save me!” is jarring. It’s unsettling, and just ruins the whole iistening experience for me in what is supposed to be an aching love song.

    Secondly, Justin Moore wouldn’t be nearly as irritating a performer if he actually had a modicum of self-awareness in performing the material he writes or is handed to him. Much like Jason Aldean, he just always comes across as creepy because of how self-serious he always sounds and, in moments where he lets loose like on the “country rap” title track or “Field Fulla Hillbillies”, he just makes honest “country” listeners look like laughing stocks.

    Finally, even when you have the album’s less offensive moments, almost each and every song sounds like a public service announcement or advertisement of some sort. With “Lettin’ The Night Roll”, it’s selling Kenworth trucks. With “This Kind of Town”, it’s spending your entire paychecks on Big Macs and cheaply-imported products from China. With “Big Ass Headache”, it’s Gatorade. With “Wheels”, it’s Firestone. And then with his supposed romantic moments, it’s himself. It’s as though he should dedicate half of his album cover to his corporate sponsors: with the bottom half headed by the text: “Brought To You By…”replete with the corporate logos of all the brands he name-drops below.

    Even the title presents overtures to the contrary. Moore is insinuating that his newest release is going to go against the grain, take the road less traveled, be adventurous, audacious and venturous. And yet, almost everything follows the Nashville formula to a tee. From relying on the exact same songwriters monopoilizing and homogenizing the songwriting pool on Music Row (The Peach Pickers, The Warren Brothers, Rodney Clawson, David Lee Murphy), to regurgitating the same laundry-list song descriptors, to vilifying other ways of life beyond his supposed country utopia, to complacently relying on the same chord progressions, vocal phrasings and technicalities, to going with this ersatz “outlaw” image that is deeply contradicted by squeaky-clean pop-heavy production…………..it­’s more like “On The Safe, Generic Path”.

    Sorry, I rate albums based on the sum of their parts and their whole, not by an individual standout cut like the one you allude to: “Old Habits”. I’ll surely admit it is a fleeting moment of fresh air and quality amidst an otherwise trainwreck of a record. But one good track just isn’t worth a one-star upgrade. I’d rather just hope it will become a single so I can then sing my relative praises for it on its own. The album in itself, however, is the worst of trash peddled this year alongside Tyler Farr’s debut album (minus “Living with the Blues” and the passable-but-forgettable “Whiskey In My Water”) and Luke Bryan’s “Crash My Party” (minus the passable-but-forgettable “I See You” and “Drink A Beer”).

    One star (as an album) here.

    • I certainly could have spent more time going track by track and pointing out the lyrical problems, but is this something everyone wants to read? I think I made my point and moved on without beating it to death. Not criticizing you or anyone else for taking it a step further, but I almost feel like saying that a Justin Moore album has vacuous lyrics goes without saying.

  • There’s something about Justin Moore’s voice that I really find annoying. I’m not that articulate when it comes to trying to describe voices, but maybe just too nasally? I don’t despise the album, and I do appreciate that you can actually hear the steel guitar, but there are just so many cliche cringe worthy moments that make up over 50% of the album that I found myself needing a mouth guard by the end of it. Good fair review.

    • I honestly think Justin Moore possesses a voice that, when used authentically, can truly sound great and affecting.

      The problem is, he almost always embellishes and exaggerates his “twang” to the point of absurdity. It sounds artificial much in the same way Craig Morgan, who also has a truly compelling vocal when he truly invests in his performances, terribly exaggerates his “twang” accent in countless songs from “More Trucks Than Cars” to “Corn Star” to “Bonfire”. And especially when he takes judgemental jabs at city slickers/urban culture, he just comes across as smug and bitter.

      It’s one thing when you’re, say, Florida-Georgia Line……….in which I really don’t see Tyler Hubbard possessing a compelling vocal. Thus in situations like that, you’re going to need all the studio trickery help you can get, and a contrived-beyond-compare “twang” vocal to conceal those visible flaws. But when you actually have a demonstrative strong vocal and resort to these cheap gimmicks, you just come across as even worse.

      I just listened to the debut American single of former Default frontman Dallas Smith: “Tippin’ Point”. And what is absolutely insulting about this release, besides the intelligence-insulting lyrics like “It’s hot as hell the way you shake that tailgate!”…………he NEVER had an overtly “twangy” vocal style with Default. On their lone hit “Wasting My Time”, for instance, he has a nasal vocal style akin to a more streamlined Scott Stapp of Creed. And somehow, with “Tippin’ Point”, he just so happens to have a super-twangy vocal! (eye roll) -__-

      • When someone is trying to make fun of country music singers, they make their voice sound like Justin Moore. I find it borderline embarrassing to hear him sing, its so exaggerated and disingenuous.

    • I think Justin probably naturally has a Southern inflected voice, but I think he sends it into hyper drive because he and his handlers believe that’s his niche in the mainstream market, that he’s the true backwoods country guy who Nashville doesn’t get. Miranda Lambert will send her twang into hyper-drive as well. It takes away from the music.

      • I’ve been confused lately thinking about the artists who really stress the twang in their voice… Justin, in particular, and other artists who belt out the “ah, naw” and stuff like that. Shouldn’t the natural voice when signing mellow out the accent to a degree?

        Brits, for example, when singing lose most of their accent and some pronunciations? (Not always the case). Shouldn’t that apply here too? I take it the drawl adds to the theme and marketing schematics, but I’ve noticed with recent mainstream country artists that the accent/draw just gets worse and blatant?

    • THIS is the #1 thing about Justin Moore I cannot stand! I’m not saying he’s faking an accent but it sounds sooooo played up and exaggrated beyond words. I couldn’t stand “If Heaven Wasn’t Too Far Away” a couple of years ago, that was always being played. I know he’s from Arkansas and I know his accent is real but the way he sings – it does sound like somebody putting on a very, bad Southern accent.

  • Trig listens to this commercial pop so we don’t have to.

    Thise CD looks like garbage, starting with the staged photo on the cover showing how cool Justin is and how sexy he is to the chicks.

    I expect the inside to be vacuous.

    I accept the notion that there will be some pleasant and surprising exceptions to Music Row pop content.

    But looking for quality artists and songwriting in Music Row-produced music is like looking for corn kernels in horse dung.

    I prefer sticking with alt country, hard country, Texas country, Bakersfield sound, folk and outlaw country artists.

  • See there Trigger, I knew you would like at least some of it !

    I feel like i’ve accomplished something…

    (judging from the tweet I sent you regarding this record.)

  • The littlest outlaw. He’s terrible.

  • When will the landslide of faux country outlaws end.

  • At least he doesn’t have a giant wallet chain yet. And, he isn’t wearing his cowboy hat just as a toupee (cough Jason Aldean). It could be worse.

  • He’s better than Luke Bryan.

  • Do you know in amongst all the ghastly racket that masquerades as country/roots music every so often a small shaft of light pierces the gloom to give hope for a brighter future. Have a look at this little Scottish boy on holidays in New York with his parents. His Dad is out to buy a guitar and the kid sings along in the shop.

    If ever the phrase “born to do it” sat comfortably on a pair of young shoulders….


  • Post Nasal Depression Syndrome….

  • Hey, first time commenter, long time reader. Hey Trigger, if you think Justin Moore’s past 2 albums were bad, review Lenny Cooper’s Mud Dynasty album that came out back in May. I can’t imagine the pure entertainment value of reading your review of that. Reading your rants are always very entertaining and hilarious. Just giving you an idea.

  • Seriously…this is embarrassing to read. I’m just curious how many people actually have lived this stuff and can relate to the lyrics that are commenting on this. There is a reason that there is the “laundry list” of things in country music. Hell…I go out get my truck stuck, love my beer, dip every now and then, and live the life he’s singing about. This is way better than a lot of stuff out there and I just have not found something you like at all reading this website. If you hate on everything, why are you even reviewing country music. Music is evolving man and you have to realize that. Every single genre is evolving and changing with bands and artists experimenting with different sounds. If you don’t change what you do as far as your sound, you aren’t going to go anywhere. You are going to sit in the rut that you are in and even though it’s all about making the music (musician myself), if you don’t change, you won’t be doing it for very long and that is what you are failing to see.

  • Seriously, you people are something else. No life other than being haters on people working their butts off and doing something with their lives. Justin Moore can sing as well as anyone, is a good person, and has succeeded in a business that is tough not like people who hide behind their computers and never come out to see the light of day. Obviously not raised right or you wouldn’t be tearing down just for the sake of tearing down. Just saying.

    • Johnson took the words right out of my mouth

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