Black Music Matters Festival

Billy Ray Cyrus

Back To Tennessee – 2009 (Lyric Street/Walt Disney)

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

See it on Amazon

A lot has happened to Billy Ray Cyrus the last few years, going from the star of the family to second fiddle thanks to daughter Hannah. But the success of Miley Cyrus has also fueled more interest in what her dad is doing. This new album begins with the title track, which is rather mainstream, middle-of-the-road country pop fodder that doesn't really grab the listener. But he gets going on Thrillbilly, with far more bite and oomph to it, a rootsy roadhouse rocker that can't fail even with his raspy rapping during the verses.

But too often, the songs sound quite forced, especially on the rather formulaic A Good Day, the closing duet with Miley on Butterfly, Fly Away and the sullen ballad He's Mine that seems to limp instead of glide along like a Kid Rock b-side. And the same can be said for the lush attempt on Somebody Said A Prayer, which might work better live.

The second half of the record gets infinitely better on the back of the bouncy I Could Be The One that comes off as the album's highlight. A close second is probably the country-soaked Country As Country Can Be, which sounds far more focused and authentic. Meanwhile Love Is The Lesson is a full bore country rock nugget.

While not his best work, Cyrus gives enough to make it an enjoyable listen.