Album Review- Randall King’s “Into The Neon”

Country music is entering a new neotraditional phase, and Texas country music singer turned major label star Randall King is one of the reasons. Starting with his self-titled debut in 2018, then onto his Warner Records debut in 2022 called Shot Glass, and now with Into The Neon, King has tugged country in the right direction, and raised the per capita twang to a level we haven’t enjoyed in decades.

Into The Neon picks up right where Randall King left off with Shot Glass, meaning genuinely unabashed country songs full of the kinds of sounds and sentiments that you think of when you think “country music.” Randall King and co-producer Jared Conrad clearly studied all those ’90s country albums featuring the plucks and bends of folks like Brent Mason, because they have that sound down tight to a sometimes eerie time travel-like degree.

18 songs is a lot to digest, but it goes down smooth when Randall King is serving them up. Though King’s neotraditional sound might be similar to others, what he has that many don’t is an actual country voice to compliment them. Not only is Randall’s tone custom tailored for this type of throwback country, King is a master of knowing how to cunningly move in and out of phrases with a natural slickness. It’s just a joy to hear the guy sing, no matter what it is.

Though everything on Into The Neon fits within the honky tonk version of country music, King shows some latitude within that framework. The title track gives you a distinct Western flavor that fits perfectly with the West Texas-inspired cover art. “Could’ve Been Love” is another heater, showcasing some of the excellent instrumentation that is present throughout this record.

Even when the song leans in a more contemporary direction—like the second track “Somewhere Over Us”—the steel guitar comes in hot, heavy, and just at the right time to pull it solidly back into the country genre. You have to wait until the 17th track called “I Could Be That Rain” before you hear something resembling an electronic drum beat intro. And even then it sounds more like a tape playback effect as opposed to a genuine 808.

All that said, one of the knocks on Into The Neon will be that all 18 tracks feel like different versions of the same song. The lyrics never really stray too far from the formula. It’s honky tonk this, neon that, whiskey this, and so on. The songs are either about drinking with a broken heart, hitting a honky tonk, or fawning over your woman. Sure, that’s country music. But so are other themes.

The album never reaches into the realm of Bro-Country or even list songs, thank goodness. But similar to the very twangy albums of someone like Justin Moore, it rarely if ever gets very deep. “Right Things Right” about growing up and learning about limits is a welcome change of pace, but Into The Neon still features a lot of songwriting-by-committee tracks that leave something to be desired.

The track list reveals that Randall King co-wrote six of the tracks. Other writers include another neotraditionalist in Jake Worthington, as well as the highly regarded Gordie Sampson and Drew Kennedy. But you also have names like Mitchell Tenpenny and Ben Hayslip.

Into The Neon has that always good, sometimes great, but never excellent aspect to it. And though at this point we’ve blown out all limitation on track lists, this is one of those albums where you wonder if the amount of songs helped expose some of the thinness behind the writing by tapping the same wells too many times.

But also consider the accessibility of Randall King’s songs as one of his assets. Irrespective of the minor gripes, this guy deserves to be on the radio and playing arenas. Strangely though, he doesn’t even currently have a Wikipedia page. Don’t get it wrong, Randall King has seen a ton of success compared to some artists. But he should be on more big festival lineups instead of just playing Billy Bob’s.

Randall King has that hot honky tonk sound everyone else is trying to emulate. Instead of chasing the imitators and bandwagoners, Randall King and Into The Neon are already right here for you.

1 3/4 Guns Up (7.9/10)

– – – – – – – – –

Purchase Into The Neon

© 2023 Saving Country Music