Luke Bryan‘s sixth studio album What Makes You Country is in many ways an homage to his hometown of Leesburg, Georgia. It’s there that he established a respectful manner and developed an appreciation for a hard day’s work, which is the moral foundation that the album rests upon. If it sounds hokey and squeaky clean it’s because it is. Lyrically he stays firmly in the pocket, embracing common platitudes and status quo ideas; the type of dry country music grandma would approve of.

From a production standpoint, Bryan does make an attempt to spice things up. He embraces a more polished sound, which challenges him to stretch his vocal range. Sadly, he sounds uncomfortable and stiff while doing it. The transitions are clunky and mismanaged, and the only time he sounds truly comfortable is when he’s being sentimental and nostalgic. It’s a concerted attempt at breaking out, but an awkward venture every step of the way.

What Makes You Country

A simple run down on what makes a man or woman country; the equivalent to the ever popular street cred rap. The bucking guitar brings it up to modern day standards, which is a draw for all the young cowboys and girls out there. For him it’s an intuitive process, something that you’re born with and eventually grow into. He’s proud and celebrating his roots as a simple man with a big heart: [LISTEN]

Out of Nowhere Girl

The simple plucking of a banjo slowly evolves into a full on pop extravaganza, one laced with all the pretty bells and whistles. The transformation mirrors his growing love for his girl, and he can’t dole out the cliches fast enough. He’s claiming that she came out of nowhere and is from another planet. The alien feeling is leaving him so smitten that he can’t tell left from right anymore: [LISTEN]

Light it Up

When he’s not with his lady he’s an absolute mess; the sun isn’t as bright, the water not as sweet and his heart not as warm. He’s borderline obsessed, checking his phone so often that he’s putting him and everyone else around him in danger. Being under her spell is like heaven and hell, and he’s enjoying every morsel of the sweet and sour experience. A needy puppy whining at his master’s feet: [LISTEN]

Most People are Good

Routine platitudes that could make paint dry. He’s all about the kids and believing in mankind; Sunday service mumbo jumbo that has been told ad nauseum. Being good is a principal force in his life, but he can’t stop himself from over indulging; so much so that his ideas read as lofty and over sentimental. It’s the benevolent country preacher routine that is more about theatrics than substance: [LISTEN]

Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset

Sitting by a roaring fire with his trusty dog, corncob pipe and acoustic guitar. The setting is making him nostalgic, and he’s traversing through the past like a wayward time traveler. His destination is a lake house out in the middle of the woods, and waiting there for him is the sweetest lady he’s ever laid eyes on. The moment is seared into his brain and reliving it gives him a sense of peace: [LISTEN]

Bad Lovers

Despite all the hard times, Luke Bryan and his lady have never been bad lovers. Even though they drive each other mad, they’ve still maintained a rock solid foundation. From a sonic standpoint he takes a slow and low approach; a sound that allows him to indulge for a moment. The memory is a touchstone, and he uses it as a reminder that no matter how bad things get they still have love: [LISTEN]

Drinking Again

The tempo picks up and Luke Bryan gets to honky tonkin’. There’s no stopping him, he’s a country western Godzilla smashing through everything in his path. Of course before he starts his rampage he needs to get properly sauced, some liquid courage to get him going. It’s a drunkard’s anthem and he’s invited all his buddies along for the festivities; the sonic equivalent to Bud Light: [LISTEN]

Land of a Million Songs

Hitting the road in a dusty pick up truck with his trusty dog sitting shotgun. He’s looking for the next great American tale and hoping that his journey will help inspire others to write their own story. There are an infinite number of places to pull inspiration from, and he thinks that each one has the potential to be a number one hit. As for Bryan himself, he’s still searching for his muse: [LISTEN]

 ‘Like You Say You Do

The old sidle move, a technique employed by the weak and self-serving. He’s playing hero ball, wanting to be the John Wayne figure who comes in and saves the day. The damsel in distress is catching his ear and he can’t get on his white horse fast enough to rescue her. The charade is a tired cliche come to life, the faint echo of a bygone era. He’s Superman looking for Lois Lane: [LISTEN]

Hooked On It

A small town country boy reveals some of his most gripping addictions. It’s a mild, aw-shucks confessional that is more innocent than it is edgy. He’s being cheeky and embracing the lifestyle that has made him into what he is today. His biggest vices include beer, blue eyes and dust from a plow. The sum of his addictions is the main fodder advertisers use for beer commercials. Bland and tiresome: [LISTEN]

She’s a Hot One

LB looks to dirty up his image a little bit by hitting the club. With a few beers in him he’s starting to loosen up, letting the fiend in him take over for the night. He’s got his eye on a woman who is moving on the dance floor like a serpent. His immediate instinct is to throw a wad of cash at her like she’s a stripper. According to him she’s a hot mess, but worth pursuing for the chase alone: [LISTEN]

Hungover in a Hotel Room

It’s the morning after and he’s wondering what the hell happened. When he looks over he sees his pretty lady still in bed snoozing away. The image of her silhouette has him searching for the moment, and as it slowly comes to him he can’t help but crack a smile. He wants to preserve the feeling he had when he first laid eyes on her and keep the passion burning, a night he’ll remember forever: [LISTEN]

Pick it Up

Back on his moral high horse, hoping that his clean living will rub off on those around him. He’s making sure to say ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’, and hold doors for all those trailing behind. Good habits are the foundation of his life, and those values serve as his main source of inspiration. Being a good boy is a priority and everything he projects is squeaky clean. A predictable tale with no plot twists: [LISTEN]

Driving This Thing

LB hits the road again and with him is his special little lady. He’s used to being the one in control, but tonight he’s choosing to defer to her. Playing Robin to her Batman is a role he doesn’t mind taking, the only thing that matters is that they’re together. With her leading the way, he’s free to whisper sweet nothings into her ear. She’s the boss now and he couldn’t be happier: [LISTEN]

Win Life

The classic grind song with a country twist. He’s been through the ringer once or twice and wants to encourage those who’ve been through the same to keep trying. Small victories are important to him, and he believes that learning to get up is more important than learning to succeed. He’s trying to string together one win at a time and hoping that in the end it’ll lead to a life well lived: [LISTEN]