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Morgan Evans (Warner Nashville, 2018)

Morgan Evans

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

There's been a window in Morgan Evans' life where he has had the unusual experience of living in the shadow of his own personal life. If Nashville had a Homecoming Court, Kelsea Ballerini would surely be in it. And Evans must have disappointed legions of men by marrying her in 2017. But while the groom had some buzz as a singer/songwriter in his own right, much of the familiarity with his work stayed on the shores of his native Australia. He finally took the plunge in 2017 to pursue success in country's motherland and signed with a new label to match his new Nashville address.

With a fall 2018 album, "Things That We Drink To" announced, Evans says it will represent in part, "the fun, the loneliness and the struggle...losing someone and finding the strength to keep your head up...marrying the love of your life." This is not that album. This EP sampler of that record appears to be solely mining it for the most bankable pop/country hits. Everything is up and happy, all light no dark. That's not a crime in of itself and a passable strategy for fan introductions. The single "Kiss Somebody" is a radio-ready winner. Paired with the wedding slow dance/groove number "I Do," Evans poses well as a Keith Urbanesque new romantic.

But identity is something of a problem - the Aussie can't authentically deliver songs about the Southern tribe, so he steers everywhere he can on more universal subjects. "Young Again" sounds lifted from The Lumineers or Mumford and Sons. And "Day Drunk" refits the groove of Flo Rida's "My House" by way of Kenny Chesney.

This isn't completely the artist's fault - all of these tracks were co-written with producer Chris DeStefano, who's been a part of some number one hits for Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan. It's like everyone involved with this record was a little too eager to please the stateside fans. There's no better example than "American" - ultimately, it's a simple love song. But it has so much overproduction and bombast, you'd think it was Kid Rock recording a new National Anthem. Best advice is to cherry pick this release even further for its strongest singles or hold out for the full album to get the complete picture of what Evans can do.

CDs by Morgan Evans

Things That We Drink To, 2018 Morgan Evans, 2018

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