If we could wave a magic wand, rub a genie bottle, hump the veritable leg of Music Row like a hot and bothered little dachshund, and have our wishes granted for mainstream country music and its radio component to completely transform itself overnight, what it would sound like is something very similar to what is embodied in this Triston Marez debut album.
It’s country. It’s traditional. But it’s also not so stuffy and dated that the masses would writhe at the sound of it like so many traditional country fans do when they get a whiff of today’s mainstream country radio, or today’s radio listeners do when they hear Hank. It’s pragmatic, appealing to both young and old, hip and square, mainstream and independent, contemporary and traditional.
Without country radio or help from the mainstream, the music of Triston Marez has already caught fire from a few of his single and EP releases starting back as far as 2017, with certain tracks reaching well over a million streams. The mix of grassroots support from his adherence to the roots, along with his social media savviness and natural charisma, Marez has made himself easy to root for.
Calling Triston Marez traditional country is appropriate, but does come with some caveats. Similar to someone like Cody Johnson, Triston will always keep it country, but don’t expect Cody Jinks or Tyler Childers. The songs still sit in the accessible array of subject matter like girl meets guy, with many references to alcohol, while still avoiding outright Bro-Country, or Boyfriend Country stylings.
There’s steel guitar and fiddle, and no drum loops or anything such as that. But some of the drum rhythms and musical approach do remind you of today’s more modern trends. But hey, Triston Marez isn’t just looking to get the honky tonks two-stepping. This album shoots for the stars, hoping to re-instill some twang in the topmost latitudes of the country sphere, whether radio and Music Row want to play ball, or not. He even scores a duet with Hall of Famer Ronnie Dunn on the song “Where The Neon Lies.”
Songs like the opener “Whole Lotta You,” or the ender “Drink About Me,” or the lyrics of “Day Drinking” may remind you of a twangier version of someone like Jason Aldean. But when Triston sinks his teeth into the more traditional material of the record like “Cold Cold Night,” “When She Calls Me Cowboy,” or shows his roots off with “Texas Swing” with the Sqeezebox Bandits and Jessica Roadcap, it really hits the spot.
Similar to other traditional country guys with mainstream aspirations such as Jon Pardi, Cody Johnson, or Aaron Watson, Triston Marez isn’t going to be right for every independent country fan out there, while he may be just a little too twangy for some whose gateway drug into country music was Sam Hunt or Florida Georgia Line.
But believing that country has a place in country music, Triston Marez has released a debut that looks to serve the sweet spot in between the cultural divide in country, perhaps smoothing out some of the friction, while instilling some needed twang on the mainstream side of things.
1 1/2 Guns Up (7.5/10)
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