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Drew Baldridge

Dirt On Us – 2016 (Cold River)

Reviewed by Sam Gazdziak

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CDs by Drew Baldridge

Drew Baldridge has a strong voice that's made for contemporary country music. The problem is that he's given very little country music to sing, and what is there can hardly be considered "contemporary." There's a fine line between "retro cool" and "dated," and "Dirt on Us" never really figures out how to toe the line, wasting fine vocals with subpar songs.

The opening track, "Train," sums up so many of the problems. It throws together forgettable lines like "Gotta let out the horses/Let the big dog ride," pop culture references like hashtags and Snapchat and a generic dance-pop beat. On top of all that, there's a cheesy horn section that sounds like it was borrowed from a 1980s tribute act. The lead single, "Dance with Ya," fares a little better, but never rises above the level of "decent bar band."

Baldridge succeeds more with the slower-tempo songs. "Dirt on Us" piles on the country stereotypes that occupy every other country song, but his vocal performance saves the song. Similarly, he piles on the charm to "Burnt Toast," an otherwise stereotypical ode to a pretty woman who can't cook a lick. Yes, it's a sexist trope, but Baldridge has enough charm to make it more innocent than offensive.

"Love on Your Body," on the other hand, skips any pretense of innocence and tries to be a Marvin Gaye-esque slo-jam love song. "Love on your body, mess that hair up, take off your T-shirt, love on your body," he sings. Rather than come across as smooth and seductive, Baldridge sounds tacky instead.

To confound matters more, the closing number is a traditional, solemn take on "It Is Well with My Soul," featuring Doug and Mike Baldridge, his father and uncle. It's beautifully sung and has little in common with the "take off your T-shirt, wreck that makeup" vibe of the rest of the album. There is no doubt that Drew Baldridge can sing, but this album demonstrates that even the best vocals need more than dated production and generic songs.