Luke Bryan - Farm Tour...Here's to the Farmer
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Farm Tour...Here's to the Farmer (Capitol, 2016)

Luke Bryan

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

Luke Bryan has been in that "hardware" phase of his career for the last few years. There have been several armloads of awards, many on the strength of the high-caliber singles from 2013's "Crash My Party." It might present a challenge to stay grounded. But Bryan has kept himself busy with work for charities (he's embarking on a traditional tour of farms to benefit his scholarship fund), and the use of the EP - this marks his eighth.

Many artists use the EP format as a means of introduction - a quick songset to showcase their best, and not overstay one's welcome. You have to give Bryan credit for finding other uses - for one, he gets to put out releases more often without overwhelming the listener. An EP also allows for thematically-linked songs, as in his highly-popular "Spring Break" series. This time out, Bryan's short stack is designed in part to be a concert souvenir. Ticket buyers to certain shows in 2016 will also get a digital code to download this album as a perk - of course, with a star of this shine, it's available everywhere.

Despite the title, these five songs aren't strictly a love letter to food growers. That sentiment is, however, covered pretty exhaustively in the "Here's to Farmer" track. ("Tell him how far he's got to go/And he'll go farther"). He even ends it with a spoken thank you. Ironically, plots of farmland get more airtime. They're good for daydrinking ("I Do All My Dreaming There") or night-romancing ("Love Me In A Field"). Bryan has developed a go-to bed of new country sound with piano and banjo, topped with a quick-flow brand of singing as slinging. It's certainly well-produced, pleasant and peppy.

But something about the generic topics feel too overvisited to beg return listens. And no matter how much it's memorialized, beer really doesn't taste any different in a briar patch. The closer, "Southern Gentleman" is truer to Bryan's earlier best - a slow burn with a big emotional chorus. All he's really singing about is being polite. But this is a modern country ace, who - when he's on - can croon about chasing suntans like they're life or death. Now that's how you make some hardware.

CDs by Luke Bryan

Born Here Live Here Die Here deluxe, 2021 Born Here, Live Here, Die Here, 2020 What Makes You Country, 2017 Farm Tour...Here's to the Farmer, 2016 Kill the Lights, 2015 Spring Break...Checkin Out, 2015 Spring Break 6 - Like We Ain't Ever, 2014 Crash My Party, 2013 Spring Break 4: Suntan City - EP, 2012 tailgates & tanlines, 2011 Doin' My Thing, 2009 I'll Stay Me, 2007

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