There’s nothing I value more than a mainstream country music record that bucks all trends and is truly worth your ear. It goes without saying that the ranks of unknown and under-appreciated artists in the independent and underground realm is where our generation’s true creativity resides, but finding improvement in what the masses are being exposed to is the truest barometer of cultural improvement. Enter Charlie Worsham and his debut album Rubberband that is being lauded by many critics and fans alike as a breath of fresh air for the mainstream radio dial.
The album features traditionalist country favorites Vince Gill and Marty Stuart on a track called “Tools of the Trade,” and the first single “Could It Be” has already seen some moderate chart success. But Charlie Worsham may be benefiting from the same phenomenon that has aided the legacy of Garth Brooks in recent years. As mainstream country music males continue to descend into a malestrom of checklist countryisms and crossover hip-hop forays, everything that isn’t a dirt road rap song all of a sudden begins to sound a whole lot better to our audio palettes.
Rubberband is a very fun album that sucks you right in, with sensible instrumentation, slick production with juicy hooks and choruses, and songs that are easy to relate to. But boiled down it is still a derivative, and just a step above the Rascal Flatts and Keith Urbans of the world on both the country and creativity meters. There’s nothing to be offended by here per se, and hardcore country fans will hate to admit how much they like some of these songs, but Charlie Worsham is no Kellie Pickler. Rubberband is pop country, despite some moments of depth.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is more bad than good. I certainly don’t blame folks for being excited about this album, and it has a really warm, innocent feel to it like a country pop record from the 80’s. The fact that an artist on Warner Bros Nashville could sneak an album in the door that doesn’t include a litany of Chevy truck and ice cold beer references, or the appearance of some washed-up rapper, is a victory in itself these days. Wosham co-wrote all the songs on this record, and I’d be lying if I said songs like “Tools of the Trade,” “Rubberband,” or the especially-catchy and potential breakout single “Want Me To” didn’t have me tapping my toes along.
Charlie Worsham resides in the rarely trodden space between mainstream and independent country, and this allows him to be different things to different people. He’s toured with Taylor Swift….and Wade Bowen. He can be catchy without feeling contrived. And this could open up a wide audience for him. And who knows, it also may deliver a slight bit more substance to mainstream radio, or at least, a choice for mainstream fans of a male performer who is not willing to slavishly follow trends.
1 1/4 of 2 guns up.
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