No matter how many banjos, fiddles, and mandolins you infuse in the music, a song from Steven Tyler is not going to be country, because Steven Tyler is not country. Just like it doesn’t matter that Willie Nelson never uses fiddles, banjos, or mandolins in his music. He couldn’t stop from making a country song even if he tried. But unfortunately we can’t stop Steven Tyler from trying to make country music, and today, we get the first single from the Aerosmith frontman’s upcoming country music release.
The people who read that Steven Tyler was making a country record with Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Records and let out a big belly laugh probably didn’t truly appreciate the legacies of either of these two men. If you thought this was going to be like Bret Michaels from Poison flying into Nashville for a Saturday to cut a country album and have some intern make a video for it with a borrowed Go Pro and a Jib Jab plugin, you just don’t understand the importance some people are putting behind this record. Scott Borchetta didn’t become the most powerful man in country music by being flippant; evil as his intentions may be. Though it may have been impossible to predict the exact flavor of Steven Tyler’s “country” music once it hit our ears, it was near impossible that it was going to be something that could be used for evening talk show fodder or would send Tyler flying back to Boston holding his own ass in his lap after it was just handed to him.
Steven Tyler spent months in Nashville just as part of the writing process—acclimating himself to the lay of the land, the customs, the trends, and trying to do the best he could to make a record that is no laughing matter. And by the way, all of those that would laugh off the Aerosmith legacy in one lump sum are probably doing a disservice to Steven Tyler, Aerosmith, and themselves too. Those early records—Get Your Wings, Toys In The Attic and such—these are some of the most influential moments in American music, like them or not. It was when Geffen brought in Desmond Child to write super hits when Aerosmith became a cash cow good for little else than selling out arenas. Even then, if you say the sway of a song like “Cryin'” has no effect on you, you’re either lying, or imposing such a limited scope on your listening experience, it’s a shame.
But on to this Steven Tyler “Love Is Your Name” country song, those hoping Steven would be serving up a steaming pile of Bro-Country stool so I could then serve up a bowl of blood in retaliation, I’m sorry to let you down. “Love Is Your Name” is sappy, somewhat safe (though bold in places), not especially country, and certainly coming from someone who really has no business in country music. But bad it is not.
Co-written by Lindsey Lee and the much-underrated Eric Paslay, and cut in Nashville’s Blackbird studio during the very first recording session for Tyler’s upcoming Dot (Big Machine) Records release, if nothing else, Paslay’s involvement clued you in that this wasn’t going to be terrible.
“Love Is Your Name” works similarly to some of Paslay’s better material in how it skims close to the inspired rising action of many of the Millennial roots bands like Mumford & Sons, without being weighed down by overusing the same tired 2012 formula. Similar to a Mumford song, all of the instrumentation is sort of muddled together, but it’s hard not to appreciate that in there you can clearly hear the organic sounds of banjos and fiddles. Steven Tyler’s vocal abilities have never been a point of doubt when it comes to range and power, though your own particular listening palette may spit it out due to its unique properties. “Love Is Your Name” allows Steven to show off his range and skills, even if the vocal track, like the song, is hampered by a lack of separation in the signals.
The simple fact is these country music carpetbaggers are in a better position to make better music than some of the artists who are already in country music believe it or not, because the interest in their name alone allows them more artistic latitude, and they’re likely wanting to prove themselves as gracious to the country music community by trying not to just be country in branding only. This is what Darius Rucker did to success early on, and this is the path Steven Tyler is trying.
There’s a cornucopia of reasons to reel at the idea of Steven Tyler making a country record. From being a sexual miscreant, to dressing like a freak show, to falling squarely in the narrative of being a washed up rock singer looking for a career rebirth through country music carpetbagging, to seeing all of this transpire while Scott Borchetta stands to the side with that dumb snicker on his face. Sure, the love story here is shallow, and it evokes visions of Ben Affleck landing on a comet to save the plant from total annihilation (Armageddon reference people, which included that Aerosmith song. Keep up!), and maybe it’s more of a commentary of what country music has come to as opposed to the quality of the song itself. But overall, it’s hard to label “Love Is Your Name” anything but “not bad.”
1 1/4 of 2 Guns Up.
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