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Jerrod Niemann

Free The Music – 2012 (Sea Gayle/Arista Nashville)

Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh

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CDs by Jerrod Niemann

Some artists dance to the beat of a different drummer and on his latest recording, "Free the Music," Jerrod Niemann does just that. Stepping away from more conventional Music Row sounds, Niemann performs a mash-up of genres, showcasing elements of pop, rock, Dixieland jazz and more while still managing to keep his feet squarely in country territory.

The title track leads off, finding the artist seemingly channeling fellow artist, Big Kenny, as he throws it all into a pot and stirs, vocal effects, horns and hick-hop flows setting the tone for what's set to come. Further genre explorations occur on the laid-back, pop-tinged Get On Up, Niemann garnering steam from some compelling keyboards while Guessing Games brings some elements of funk and flavor to bear, buoyed by a killer horn section.

That horn section is a key ingredient to the Dixieland jazz influences that inform Honky Tonk Fever, while the artist tackles something of the '70s singer/songwriter world, dueting with Colbie Caillat, on the sunny tale of love, I'm All About You. He then brings things back into the new millennium with the pop rock ballad, Only God Could Love You More, fueled by programmed beats and emotive piano notes.

Yet, while Niemann takes this opportunity to sow some musical oats, he still realizes which side butters his bread, and he delivers for them as well with tracks like Whiskey Kinda Way, reminiscent of George Strait, and showcases some Texas-tinged country on I'll Have To Kill the Pain. Shinin' On Me and Real Women Drink Beer are radio ready hits while Fraction of a Man finds Niemann presenting his final dish of musical gumbo with gusto, accompanied by a side of accordion, tuba and more.

"Free the Music is an album that won't necessarily appeal to the diehard country music traditionalists but, for those looking for something fresh and original, there's plenty of good to be heard here.