Country music is an interesting place right now. In some ways it feels worse than it did a few years ago, and in some ways it feels better than it did a few years ago.
On the positive side, between great comebacks from David Nail, Eric Church, Dierks Bentley and more, it feels like more artists are trying to establish unique identities at a time when country music feels lost and trying to find the next big thing.
In Randy Houser’s case, a return to form is just what he needed. His last album, 2016’s Fired Up was absolutely terrible, and his mediocrity wasn’t rewarded. Two of the three singles from the project fared terribly (one didn’t even chart), and the No. 1 single, “We Went” was such a non-eventful single that it didn’t really do anything for Houser’s career.
On one hand, hearing “What Whiskey Does” feels like a safe return for Houser rather than a bold move (plus, what did he have to lose at this point?). After all, Chris Stapleton has already perfected this sound and has established the fact that it’s alright to be yourself. On the other hand, Houser’s got one of the best voices in the genre (next to Stapleton even), and at the end of the day, “What Whiskey Does” is just a darn good song.
“Smooth” is a good description for this song. The combination of the steel guitar with the smokier organs and slightly psychedelic sounding guitars at points gives way to some smokey, blues-country goodness. It’s also this type of song that is just perfect for Houser’s voice, as his tone and flow are consistently great throughout this song.
Lyrically, this isn’t re-inventing the wheel, and the ultimate hook of whiskey doing what other alcohol can’t for this man feels more empty than meaningful. Plus, the production mix gives off more of a funky vibe than one seeped in heartache, but at the same time, Houser’s vocal performance is just compelling enough to carry that extra weight. Hillary Lindsey’s contribution on vocal harmony is also another highlight of the track.
Overall, with 52 radio adds in its first week, “What Whiskey Does” looks to be the return to form for Houser stylistically as well as commercially, and if Houser is looking to take his music more in this direction, I’m certainly on board.
Songwriters: Randy Houser, Hillary Lindsey, Keith Gattis