Album Review – Randall King’s “Shot Glass”

Of all the talk of the traditional country resurgence in the mainstream, of all the praise earned by Luke Combs for being better than his mainstream predecessors, of performers like Jon Pardi, Lainey Wilson, and Carly Pearce instilling more twang and roots into the music, of Cody Johnson dominating the airwaves at the moment with his single “Til You Can’t,” of even songwriters like Ernest putting out surprisingly country-sounding records, still nobody, nobody, is more traditional when it comes to new mainstream country than Randall King.

If you want to hear the continuation of country music that sounds like the stuff George Strait and Alan Jackson released in the late 80’s into the 90’s, Randall King takes the crown. This isn’t “90’s INSPIRED” country. This isn’t some retro gimmick or hipster put-on. Randall King was born and raised on this stuff, and lives and breathes it every day. He knows no different than to perform country music that actually sounds like country music, and is willing to die on that hill if that’s what it takes. But so far, it’s taken him across Texas and to a deal with Warner Music Nashville, and hopefully, now to the masses.

And by the way, this Texas native also has an irreplaceable asset to back that big bet up: a distinguishable voice. Remember when country singers actually had to be singers, and bring something unique to the table in regards to timbre, pentameter, and delivery, where you hung on every word? Whatever Randall King is singing, it’s all so smooth and immediately recognizable it’s him. This guy has released Christmas Carols that kick ass, primarily because of his distinctive voice.

With his major label debut Shot Glass, Randall King puts that gifted country vocal tone into play on eleven songs, including six he co-wrote himself. You’ll hear no electronic start offs, or Auto-tune enhancements. Randall King is ride or die with real country, layering on the steel guitar and leaning on the fiddle, and aside for a few edgy lead guitar solos that still fit within his 90’s country sound, he staunchly delivers on the promise of keeping it country.

If there is an issue with Shot Glass, it has little to do with Randall. It’s the elongated time it took for this album to get to us, and how so many of the album’s tracks—including arguably the best ones—were released well before the album itself. The digital era of music has already depleted the whole “new car smell” aspect and shot of adrenaline you get when picking up a new record. But when four of the tracks were released as singles before the album going back to 2020, and two more were featured on his 2020 EP Leanna dedicated to his sister, that means there’s more old songs than new songs on this new eleven song album.

And even though Randall King songs always seem good, they rarely seem spectacular from a songwriting standpoint. The lyrical hooks are effective, but never really sink deep, or pierce the heart. King is more of a stylist. It’s more about how he sings as opposed to what, while some of the songs like the opener of the album “Baby Do” can feel a little bit dated in their approach, and not in a good way.

But there is no mistaking it, the classic honky tonk vibes you get from songs like “Record High,” “You In A Honky Tonk,” and “Hey Cowgirl” set your country-loving world on fire, and with a vitality, enthusiasm, and fresh aspect that you can only get from a younger artist paying forward the classic ways of making country. We may have already heard “Around Forever” in the 2020 EP, but it remains an excellent song, and is one of the Randall King co-writes. One of the new songs “Hard Way To Make It Rain” is a killer road track.

Unlike some of Randall King’s traditional country compadres in the mainstream, he hasn’t won any big awards, or scored a #1 song just yet, except for on Texas regional radio. He’s too good, and too traditional for that at the moment. But everything is trending Randall King’s way. He’s the kind of country many in the mainstream want to be, and are yearning toward. Randall King paid his dues as an independent artist in Texas, and now just like Cody Johnson, Parker McCollum, his music deserves to catch fire. Because Randall King isn’t more country compared to some of his other mainstream counterparts. He’s country, period.

1 3/4 Guns Up (7.5/10)

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