It's no secret that the genre of country music has been growing and expanding in definition over the past several years, from the bombastic arena rocking fury of early Garth Brooks to more recent days and acts like Florida Georgia Line, further blurring the lines of country and other genres. Finding traditional country themes and vibes to merge along the rivers of hip-hop, R&B and pop, the picking is ripe for rising artists like Sam Hunt and his debut recording, "Montevallo.
Hunt's sound is just such a collision of genres, and the result is something that is engaging, original, yet will definitely be an acquired taste for the more traditional country music fan, no doubt leaving some behind. Yet for those willing to make the move, Hunt's record has some bright points to recommend it.
Chief among those points are tracks like "Take Your Time" and "Break Up In a Small Town," which are the most forward thinking of the artist's genre bending, finding spoken word flows merge into swells of R&B flavored country or, in the case of the latter, almost pop flavored melodies that will fit perfectly on either format. "Single for the Summer" is another track landing with similar vibes, a tight programmed beat rolling throughout the track while swells of pedal steel merge with the artist's warm vocals in a merger of the old and new, but "House Party," despite its bright mood, fails to strike gold other than as party filler.
"Ex To See" builds upon more heavy percussion, the bass beats building a rich rhythm for Hunt's jaded lyric while the big hit "Leave the Night On," "Make You Miss Me" and "Cop Car" (a hit for Keith Urban written by Hunt) draw from more traditional country templates of acoustic guitar swells and lyrics of love and loss. Even brighter notes inform "Raised On It." Hunt offers up his obligatory fist pumping country cred track as "Speakers" closes the record out with a soulful vibe, Hunt's arrangement forming a sultry mood that ends things on a high note.
Hunt's melting pot of soundscapes is creative and unexpected yet managed with surprising ease by the Georgia native. And while Hunt will no doubt leave some traditional country fans scratching their heads, those open to more expansive moves within the music will find much to embrace.