One Thing At A Time (Big Loud, 2023)
Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh
It's the honesty in Wallen's songs that always makes him someone to reckon with. He opens with "Born With A Beer In My Hand," which is a stunning admission. No, of course his mom didn't fill his baby bottles with Coors. However, alcohol consumption is nearly synonymous with being Southern. Wallen admits to being from a long line of beer drinkers through its lyrics. He's neither proud nor ashamed about it. He just is what he is.
Surprisingly, some of the tracks his record company has chosen as singles are not always the best choices. The words to "One Thing At A Time," where Wallen says he can only give up one vice at a time after going through a breakup, are well written. However, the track's '80s-ish sonic nearly ruins it. The simplistic "You Proof," with its softer (but nevertheless still pop) arrangement, just doesn't play to Wallen's country-styled strengths. Then again, another single, "Thought You Should Know," which Miranda Lambert helped write, is saturated in steel guitar and one of the best things we've heard on commercial radio in a long, long time.
Other highlights include "Man Made A Bar," which features Eric Church, and '98 Braves," a really smart song that compares an unsuccessful relationship to a baseball team that just wasn't able to win it all. Wallen may be no theologian, but his "Don't Think Jesus" is a stunning confession. If he was in Jesus' shoes, he wouldn't save a guy like Wallen. "I Deserve A Drink" (Yes, another alcohol-related inclusion), has a beautiful arrangement, which nicely mixes acoustic guitar and steel guitar.
Morgan Wallen may be one of today's biggest country stars, but this release paints him as just your average country boy. Sometimes, it frames him as a below average country guy, in fact. This may be one of the reasons he's so darn popular. He's just so much like many of us. Although he's probably taken on too many things at a time with this release, his success rate is still extremely high. It's the perfect release to crank up for a long road trip.
CDs by Morgan Wallen
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