"Real Friends" is a showcase for the rubberband quality of Chris Janson's voice. He's got a Mel Tillis stammer in "Check" and a Florida Georgia Line yowl in "Normal People." Kenny Chesney should get a royalty check on "Everybody's Going Through Something." But what's noticeably different about Janson is touch. His songs deftly sprinkle on a dash of horns, rock or hip-hop. But it's all county-infused flavors added by a chef in control. It never feels forced or like some restricting suit that doesn't fit. It also reads as very authentic to the life of the actual man - when he name-checks Kid Rock, you know that poster was really on the wall.
Fun is the order of the day of this album. Who couldn't appreciate a tiny detail like grabbing an ice cream sandwich out of the freezer? Heck, Janson somehow even puts the fun into his own funeral ("Hawaii on Me").
Yes, there are songs that feel a little mailed-in..."God's Gotta Be a Good Ole Boy" is a bit of an eye-roller, and "Done" comes on like a "Gone" by Montgomery Gentry retread. But the big opener single "Good Vibes" is what this record is all about. Real Friends are most welcome to this party, but once you hear it, you'll know that includes you.