Black Music Matters Festival

Granger Smith

Dirt Road Driveway – 2013 (Thirty Tigers)

Reviewed by Greg Yost

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CDs by Granger Smith

It takes a bit of skill to separate the ultra-slick sonic sheen from the thoughtful lyrical content on "Dirt Road Driveway," the latest studio release from Texas' Granger Smith. Those who can differentiate are ultimately rewarded with an album that sounds tailor-made for pop country airplay while still giving an active listener something of substance to chew on.

Sporting more hooks than a well-stocked Bass Pro Shops store, "Dirt Road Driveway" proves that Smith clearly has the recipe for ear candy. We Do It In A Field, the first track, is the sort of country rock anthem Florida Georgia Line is currently riding to the top of the charts, and it doesn't take much imagination to picture a similar fate for this one.

Other radio-ready tracks here include the off-road romanticism of Miles And Mud Tires, the young lust of Silverado Bench Seat and the wistful remembrance of summers past on 19 Forever. The latter track also displays a bit of the push/pull between radio-friendly hits and lyrical content. The song's big and driving sound combined with a sing-along chorus is clearly trying to appeal to a younger audience, but the Jerry Jeff Walker reference will likely only mean something to older fans.

Smith is more than a master of melodies as he proves throughout "Dirt Road Driveway." With If Money Didn't Matter, Smith cleverly reinforces the old adage about money not buying happiness. On Stick Around, he has the narrator taking an introspective look at his inability to remain in one place or in one relationship and how that affects his life. Definitely not just radio single fluff.

The album closes with two bonus tracks featuring Smith's backwoods alter ego, the rowdy, rough and rugged Earl Dibbles Jr. Although both Country Boy Love and The Country Boy Song, with their references to chewing tobacco, booty and hunting, are clearly meant to be a parody, the lines tend to be a bit blurred. It could be because Smith is just so convincing in this role or the fact that this grotesque caricature isn't too far removed from reality, but the parody isn't initially as obvious as you might expect.