Operating a site called “Saving Country Music” for the last eight years, I’ve learned the patient art of losing every single day with grace. It is the ever-present conceit of the living to believe that the present times are the worst there’s ever been, and country music is no exception. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that people weren’t yelling that the sky was falling when John Denver was winning the CMA Entertainer of the Year, or Juice Newton was topping the country charts.
But 2015 has been especially sinister in how it has turned the knife in the heart of steadfast country fans by making turncoats out of what used to be the last vestiges of substance and country roots in the mainstream. Where Bro-Country was at least compartmentalized, in 2015 it is sell out or shut up and go home. Virtually nobody has been spared a bite from the “commercial relevancy” bug, and you can now add Easton Corbin to the list of the infected.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that Easton Corbin was never that exceptional. He was just really good for the mainstream. And it’s only fair to consider an artist by measuring them against their peers and the time period they’re in. It’s not that About To Get Real is super terrible or without its good moments. But I never thought I’d hear Easton Corbin mentioning Fireball Whiskey in a song, or replacing hi-hat cymbal hits for electronic hand claps. That’s 2015 for you.
About To Get Real is Easton Corbin going fake, no matter how much steel guitar you slather on the chest wound he leaves in the trunk of his core listeners. Yes there’s steel guitar, and a twang to his voice. There’s also Easton giving Florida Georgia Line a run for their money for the amount of times he says “girl.” There’s also a song called “Yup” (and yup, it’s bad). About To Get Real evidences the modern resignation to rhythm at the expense of lyric and melody, and does so through unfortunate dalliances with electronically-generated sounds. It’s also about as laundry list and “Bro” as it gets. It’s Easton Corbin turning in his pearl snaps and T-shirts for a metro tie.
Corbin himself says, “Even though the music mixes the modern with the classic, it’s entirely real. Like the music of my heroes, it’s the real deal.” Trust me folks, when someone has to tell you how real something is, that’s a sure sign that it’s probably fake. “Real” speaks for itself. I could almost forgive Easton his trespasses against country music if he’d just fess up to them instead of trying to hide behind the “real” moniker. That makes it a measure worse.
But About To Get Real is not all bad news. Is it true that this album is better than what we’re used to from most of mainstream country’s male entertainers? Yes it is. Is it more country? Certainly. And there’s some pretty decent songs. “Wild Women and Whiskey,” despite hitting on the same tired Bro-Country themes the rest of the album does, is refreshingly organic in the instrumentation, and classic in the approach. Written by Ronnie Dunn and Terry McBride, it’s one of the album’s redeeming moments.
“Are You With Me” wasn’t terrible either. It has a new school approach, but it hits on a little something. And “Like A Song” is outright excellent. It’s like a classic early 90’s hit, and it’s a shame songs like this get put as the last on a track list, and will never be released as singles.
But there’s also songs like “Guys and Girls,” “Diggin’ On You,” and the ridiculous “Just Add Water” that make you hang your head in “used to be an Easton Corbin fan” shame. What is going on here? Does Easton really believe he’s going to reach a bigger audience with this pablum? Even though Tim McGraw had some worse singles, he put out a better album. Even though Florida Georgia Line is worse overall, at least they don’t know any better.
Again, let’s not oversell Easton Corbin’s contributions before About To Get Real, but at least he was a symbol of pragmatism in country music—someone traditionalists and contemporaries could both nod their head to in approval. And give him credit for attempting to stick as close to his roots as he could sonically with this record. But unfortunately it’s not enough to redeem these songs. About To Get Real was a letdown, and one from an artist we were hoping may be able to help lead country music out of the abyss instead of following country music into it.
1 1/2 of 2 Guns DOWN.