Thursday, September 13, 2012

A biased album review: "Good Guys" by Bucky Covington (2012)

I won't even pretend to be objective here (please note title of blog...ahem), but as a longtime fan of Bucky Covington and his music, I'll say that knowing the back story behind Good Guys--Bucky's struggles with his former label's closure, his realization that the album needed to be truer to his real musical self, his decision to become totally hands-on with both the business and the artistic sides of his career, and his clear pride in the finished product--makes the fact that this is a truly high-quality modern country album even sweeter.   I am really, really pleased with the long-awaited sophomore album by Bucky Covington, and I think you will be, too.  Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let's enjoy Good Guys together, track-by-track.

"I Wanna Be That Feeling"

Let's start off with a quote from the review posted here when this song first went to radio: " I Wanna Be That Feeling" spotlights that same distinctive, gritty, soulful Southern voice that inspired this blog back in '06 when Bucky was an unknown, unsigned semifinalist...The song's theme and lyrics take full advantage of Bucky's unusual, appealing youthful-yet-experienced gravelly tone in much the same way that his first big hit, "A Different World" (and the should-have-been hit "A Father's Love") did so well.

As a lead off to an album, "I Wanna Be That Feeling" sounds even better--it's a welcoming, inviting uptempo charmer of a love song that draws you in and gets your toes tapping.  (As a matter of fact, I wonder if radio might like to give this one a second chance somewhere down the line...)

Bucky Covington on stage in Hillsboro; photo by the very kind Judy Lang.

"I'm Alright"

The first thing that'll hit you as this song unfolds is the shimmeringly beautiful guitar intro--and then Bucky's quietly mournful delivery of this rainy-night breakup ballad proceeds to break your heart.  "I'm Alright" is a stealthy killer of a song; your heart (if it isn't made of stone) will ache for the poor narrator who insists he's "alright" with the situation, when it's clear that he's anything but all right. (Listen to the way the "I don't really wanna kiss you..." line is sung, and check for a lump in your throat.)  Bucky mentioned in his recent Yahoo Music interview that "I'm Alright" is one of his favorites on the album--he sounds proud of it, and that pride is absolutely warranted.

"Hold a Woman"

When the first live fan videos of this song began to hit YouTube,  the bluesy, liquid feel of it made me feel so oddly nostalgic that I had to try to sort out what musical trigger it had pulled in my mind.  The closest I could come (and this is a huge compliment) is that it hits the same blues/country/classic sweet spot that songs like Tony Joe White's brilliant "Rainy Night in Georgia" touch.  There's a certain mix of sensual soul, sweet country and Southern flavor that'll tickle your senses every time, and between Bucky's sexy, throaty vocals,  an appealingly retro arrangement (love the organ!) and those sly lyrics, this one's shaping up to be the country slow-dance sensation of the year. (Grab your own slow dance partner and see for yourself...)

"Drinking Side of Country"

I've said it before and I'll say it again--all of us just knew Bucky had a totally kickin' (being polite here) Southern party anthem in him, and this one exceeds even our highest expectations.  Bucky wrote this one with his lifelong collaborators Rocky Covington and Ducky Medlock, Bucky produced this one himself, and Bucky and guest vocalist/all-around awesome guy Shooter Jennings teamed up to create the kind of rowdy musical party you're glad you were invited to, even if you know your head's gonna hurt in the morning.  That "we roll" refrain is a delightful earworm you'll be singling along with before the second verse is over,  and the video for Bucky's current single is a hot viral hit at the moment.  (If you'd like to hear "Drinking Side of Country" on the radio, it's at your local country station right now--roll on down to the request lines and ask for Bucky by name!)

"Only Got So Much Time"

The theme is familiar--life is pretty short, so go for the gusto--but this food-for-thought song steers well clear of sticky-sweetness with down-to-earth, real-life relatable lyrics, a funky, almost John Cougar Mellencamp-esque groove, and an easygoing and sincere vocal by Bucky.  It's so understated, in fact, that you'll want to listen again and again (and maybe sing along) and really take those lyrics to heart.  A gem.

Photo credit:  Kristin Barlowe/Monarch Publicity.

"Mama Must Be Prayin'"

This genuinely funny, breathlessly delivered look at what happens when the narrator's Mama's prayers are answered (his planned good times go bad, so to speak) is a favorite at Bucky's live shows, and it's easy to hear why.  You're not gonna be able to keep up with the verses, but that "whoo hoo" at the chorus is just made for joining in.

"Sail On"

If anyone out there has any doubts about how much deeper and richer Bucky's interpretive vocal skills have become, play this track first.  Lionel Richie's "Sail On" is one of the most emotionally complex songs to ever hit the charts--a mix of slow-burning anger, sorrow, resignation and chilly dismissiveness, all set to an achingly pretty melody--and Bucky absolutely, utterly nails it.  He pulled this stellar, dead-on performance from somewhere deep inside himself, and it shows. Add a beautiful arrangement with graceful acoustic guitar by the legendary Mac McAnally, and you've got magic.  When Bucky hits that key, climactic "Sail On, honey/Good times never felt so good" line, don't be surprised to find a pleasurable chill running down your spine. Wow.

"I Always Said You'd Be Back"

We're back into fast paced, party territory here--the narrator and his girl broke up, but he "always said you'd be back".  Trouble is, she's only back to get her stuff!  Cute and clever, with a fun guitar solo and a club and radio-friendly danceable beat.


Another concert favorite--and recorded, it sounds very, very different from the live version many of us are familiar with, thanks to a slightly slower tempo and the addition of a strong dash of Mariachi-style instrumental flavor.   "Mexicoma" has that beachy, breezy feeling that warms your heart and puts a smile on your face, especially at this time of year.  Cue this one up, and hold on to that summer vacation sensation just a little while longer...

"I Want My Life Back"

This song was Bucky's fourth Lyric Street single, and many of Bucky's fans will recall that it got a fair amount of airplay back then.  A heartfelt ballad about loss, loneliness, and cherishing what you've got, this one was best described in Country Weekly's recent review: "...songs about the struggling economy and unemployment in the U.S. have sadly become a mainstay in country music these days, but rarely is the topic broached with such authenticity as in 'I Want My Life Back.' Be prepared to feel a catch in your heart when you hear it."  Bucky's thoughtful vocals here are just as good as you remember, too.

"Gotta Be Somebody"

Like the previous track, this song was also released as a single to country radio, and it spent some time on the charts--but not nearly as much time as its charm and sweetness warranted.  You won't be surprised to hear that I liked this one better than the Nickelback original; the bouncy banjo underpinnings and Bucky's hopeful, energetic singing give this version something special.

"A Father's Love (The Only Way He Knew How)"

Good Guys ends with this gentle, good-natured Father's Day favorite about the kind of man a lot of listeners can recognize right off the bat--the stoic, quiet, yet deeply loving kind of father who expresses his feelings with work and deeds, not flowery words.  (Or, to paraphrase a favorite witty lady, "How can you tell if a manly-man really loves you?  He fixes your broken stuff.")  Listen to the gratitude in Bucky's voice, and you'll be reminded of a man you know--grandfather, father, uncle, husband, brother, son or friend--who fits the bill.  This single got criminally lost in the label-closing shuffle just as it was taking off; it's good to have it here on Bucky's new album.

(If you'd like, you can stream the songs for a limited time at AOL Music; better yet, take the plunge and buy Good Guys at your local music outlet, or online at Amazon, iTunesBucky's official site, or the store right now. A portion of the proceeds from the first week of Good Guys album sales goes to Help the Good Guys, an organization assisting injured firefighters and their families. News post next!--W)

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