Album Review – Justin Moore’s “Outlaws Like Me”

Before this album even came out, it’s bellicose title was begging for controversy. As Music Row tries to figure out how to financially benefit from growing dissension against the infusion of pop into the country genre, this “new Outlaw” marketing scheme has popped up to re-brand otherwise pop country stars. But never before with such boldness.

When I stated my concerns about the perversion of the “Outlaw” term, I said specifically about Justin Moore: “I’ll be honest. From what I have heard from Justin Moore’s music, the guy can sing, and at first glance, I don’t find his music as offensive as some of the other ‘new Outlaws'”.

I also promised that I would give this album an objective, honest review. And beyond that, I want to like Justin Moore, regardless of the “Outlaw” terminology. Yes, I’m sure there is a tendency in some independent/underground country fans to not like music simply because it is popular. I do not possess that disposition. I want the good artists to get popular, and I want the popular artists to get good.

But unfortunately, Justin Moore is not good, and neither is Outlaws Like Me. Those previous positive statements I made about Justin? Well it looks like I need to back pedal pretty hard from them, because this album is awful. In my opinion, and I appreciate the gravity and the certitude of what I’m about to say, but in my opinion, Outlaws Like Me is the worst country music album I have ever heard, EVER. Worse than Taylor Swift, worse than Trace Adkins, even worse than Billy Ray Cyrus.

Folks who frequent this site know I have lots of venom for “laundry list” country songs that employ a cavalcade of easily-recognizable things that can be attributed to country living: ice cold beers, cornbread, tractors, dirt roads, etc. These songs are used to 1) Create country cred for an otherwise very urbanized pop country star. 2) Appeal to the suburban demographic who want to live vicariously through the corporate country culture. Usually there will be 1 or 2 of these songs on any given Music Row-produced country album. But Justin Moore has the audacity, the boldness to make an entire record of them, and even worse, make them the most stultifying, stereotyping, unapologetically formulaic songs that have ever been published for mass consumption.

I can’t even believe this album exists. Literally, when listening to it, I had to double check to make sure the whole thing wasn’t a joke. Without making any changes to the music, you could repackage this into a parody album, and it would fly. And not only fly, it would be a damn good one, because it’s almost like Justin and his cabal of songwriters were meticulous to the point of obsession in creating the most debilitatingly formulaic album ever, almost to where you could listen to it strictly for the comedic value. I am astonished.

I was out on the first track “Redneck Side”  at 00:25 when he mentioned a “cold beer.” Ironically, the second song “My Kind of Woman” mentions an “ice cold Bud” only 14 seconds in, and is built on guitar riffs dripping with Black Crowes DNA. “Beer Time” is the worst cliche, laundry list song of all time, all time I tell you. It is the worst country song ever, on the worst country album ever. “Bait a Hook”, just like “Redneck Side”, panders to the anti- “high fallutin'” crowd to build pride in the corporate country identity by feigning judgement by others. “Flyin’ Down A Back Road” is a song created solely as a vehicle for name dropping.

Ironically “If You Don’t Like My Twang” doesn’t have any. They tried to re-create it with Stratocasters, and I think I can hear the ghost of a steel guitar that was edited out of the mix. But the worst song of all is “Guns”, which tries to out Arron Lewis, Aaron Lewis. Look at this line:

“If there ever was a time we need ‘em, I’d say it’d be today. When we’re lettin’ those terrorists watch cable TV and walk out of Guantanamo Bay”

If you are a gun owner or a patriot, you should find this song the most revolting insult to your ideals and way of life. You are more likely to die by getting hit on the head with falling fruit than a terrorist attack in a small town. I’ll have more to say on this song on its inevitable release as a single.

I actually liked “Outlaws Like Me” from the video I saw before this release, but by the time you get to the 13th track, it just comes across as self-indulgent. Who calls themselves an Outlaw? Not even Waylon Jennings did that. And who says “God bless me”?

Look, if you like this album, then don’t let my harsh comments sway you, and I mean that. The first rule of art appreciation is that if you like it, that’s all that matters. Chalk up my opinions as the ramblings of an arrogant blowhard. But understand my thoughts are 100% honest.

And to be fair, I will mention the few things I jotted down that I liked about the album. I liked the music specifically of “Flyin’ Down A Back Road”. I also thought of all the harsh things I said about the album, the songs “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away”, “Run Out of Honky Tonks”, and “Till My Last Day”, though very cliche and not good songs overall, stood apart as not being as objectionable as the others.

I’ll also say that I think Justin Moore has something. I think he is a good singer, and probably an overall good guy. I think this is a classic Music Row story. Just like politicians who go to Washington truly wanting to make a difference, and within the first few months get sucked into the machine, young singers like Justin come to Nashville with good intentions. But in this case, the country music anti-Christ Scott Borchetta got in his ear, and told him if they pulled the right strings, he could be a superstar. And Justin has little kids, and probably wants to set them up financially, but any money made on this album is tainted. There’s no purity, no truth. Justin Moore went to the crossroads and sold his soul for world riches, and it worked. But at what cost?

Two guns way down.