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Jon Pardi

Write You a Song – 2014 (Capitol Nashville)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Jon Pardi

Jon Pardi is an anomaly these days - you're not going to hear any rap or hip hop in the debut from this California native. Nor proclamations about how great farm life is. Yes, you'll hear rocking vocals and instrumentation at times, but the 11 songs are far more steeped in country than most anyone out there today.

That means there's twang in the forceful vocals - a healthy dose of it - plus pedal steel and fiddle (both are prominent on the title track, which has a sort of Jerry Lee Lewis feel).

Pardi sings with a lot of country twang in his vocal delivery, somewhat akin to Eric Church, although Pardi rocks less. The Church connection only becomes clear far later in the effort as the lead off "What I Can't Put Down" sounds straight out of Church's wheelhouse - big sounding, catchy, rocking, albeit with a lot of drawl in the vocal delivery ("Chasing Them Better Days"). Pardi slows it down, fortunately, on "That Man" and even more so on "Happens All the Time" where his vocals stand out, and you get the sense that this guy may just know his way around a honky tonk.

Pardi, who had a hand in writing all but one of the 11 songs, opts for another ingredient missing in many songs today - lyrics that paint stories. While his sleeping days in hotels could be numbered thanks to "Trash in a Hotel Room," he sets an image of hanging with his woman in the song that rocks. Many songs are all about the good times (the catchy hit "Up All Night") or at least searching for them and the bad times that sometimes go along with it. Pardi at least thematically spends a chunk of time singing about booze, closing out with "Empty Beer Cans" and "When I've Been Drinkin'." The island, neo-reggae vibe of the latter makes for a feel good song geared more towards a sing-a-long from the crowd, something that comes through on too many songs.

Lots of country acts out there today proclaim just how "country" they are, claims that are often dubious. In the case of Pardi, he underpins his vocals chops with the instrumentation to back it up. Pardi goes against the grain and is far better off for it.