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Canaan Smith

Bronco – 2015 (Mercury Nashville)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Canaan Smith

Canaan Smith closes his new album with the title track, a tribute to his brother who recently passed away in a car crash. Smith sings its words over a hushed, reverent musical backing as the song's words seemingly praise the vehicle, rather than dwelling too much on the gory details of Nathaniel's death. But once Smith sings, "It was a hell of a ride," you realize immediately he's singing about his beloved brother, not merely a motor vehicle. It's the kind of strong emotional song country music does better than most other genres. Ah, if only more of this album lived up to its high quality, though.

Smith has a young-ish voice, and his album is mostly comprised of youthful emotions. Not that these songs are bad, particularly; they're just not good - at least not "Bronco" good. The hit single, "Love You Like That," relies upon many all too familiar modern country lyrical cliches. This man in it is no city guy, we learn, and he is much more comfortable out in the country. His love is also as "strong as a fifth of whiskey." When so many predictably generic lines are thrown into a song, one starts to question if the tale described is even real. Is this a true story or merely some connected storyboard ideas?

With "American Muscle," Smith panders to American blue collar workers. He praises those that work hard during the week so they can party equally hard on the weekend. This could just as easily be a beer or a car commercial, instead of a country song. But shouldn't songs be so much more personalized than that? Sure, artists want to relate to their audience demographic; yet they should also strive to tell their stories with insight and detail, rather than paint lives with a meaningless broad brush. It's as if Smith (and many like him) doesn't give his fans nearly enough intellectual credit.

The sad truth is that when a country artist applies generic lyrics to paint-by-number country songs, he's also in danger of becoming just another generic country singer.