Now here’s an out-of-nowhere return. Easton Corbin debuted over a decade with a decidedly warm neotraditional sound at a time when that was being shoved aside, both in favor of the dying embers of 2000s pop-country and the eventual arrival of bro-country. Similar-sounding contemporaries like, say, Chris Young managed to hang on, albeit at the cost of any individual artistic personality. But Corbin got lost in the shuffle not long afterward, not helped by a bro-country pivot in 2015 on an album that didn’t really work for stylistically or vocally.
Anyway, now independent, Corbin has released his first album in eight years (which is really just a combination of a bunch of tracks he released in past recent years, plus two new ones). And while I’d like to say it mostly pulls from the warmer textures I liked from his debut, in truth, Let’s Do Country Right just represents the unfortunate problems that started to plague his work after said debut. If anything, it reminds me of Joe Nichols’ Good Day For Living album last year, where there’s still a solid ‘90s-meets-2000s sonic base, albeit one that often sounds too slick and polished in a lot of the percussive and guitar-driven textures and doesn’t offer this album a lot of flavor or unique personality. And that’s before mentioning the attempts at the meatier side of ‘90s country-rock by way of, say, Brooks & Dunn that don’t have either enough heft in their grooves or bite in their content to pull off the intended swagger.
“Honky Tonk Land,” the unflattering, stuttering riff of “Real Good Country Song,” the weak attempt at working man’s blues on “Honky Tonk Land,” “Wind You Up,” and, perhaps ironically enough, the title track are all culprits, but flip it over to the more sensitive cuts and the overall problems still persist. Granted, that’s also dipping into my other issues with the album, namely how for as much natural rollick and likability as Corbin possesses as a performer, he’s never been able to sell cool confidence sincerely. So it makes the numerous hookup tracks here feel stiff and awkward for him, and as far as the writing beyond that is concerned … well, it’s telling that this is an album all about throwing country clichés and signifiers at the wall like he’s some country savior, because in reality, I could name at least a half dozen performers actually pulling off Corbin’s desired sound more effectively – even on the radio right now!
This feels like an album stuck in 2015, where if you’re not getting bad bro-country-meets-boyfriend country leftovers by way of “I Can’t Decide” or “Wind You Up,” you’re getting tracks reliant on defensive posturing by way of the title track – where, no joke, one of the lines is “do your little thing under the ‘Wagon Wheel’ chandelier” – “Hey Merle” – which is just a lazy namedropping song dedicated to both the titular artist and Hank Williams, where ones of the winning lines is, “Yeah, you made them go ‘ooh-ooh-ooh,’ when you sang along,” or “Somebody’s Gotta Be Country,” which is actually a 2019 track and one of the better attempts at this, if only for actually fitting itself with the appropriate warmer neotraditional backdrop. Even then, it’s emblematic of the overall issues, never quite angry with the state of modern country music as it is misguided by what it actually is right now.
It’s not without its better moments, though it is telling that the best track here is “In It,”a ballad imported from Jake Owen’s 2019 album Greetings From … Jake, just without his livelier delivery. Still a good song, all things considered, if only because, again, Corbin can be a naturally warm vocalist when the tones match. “Whiskey Don’t Take Me Back” is a bit overly polished for my liking, but the double entendre behind the hook is actually pulled off effectively well. And out of all the barroom hookup tracks here, “Lonesome Drinkers” has actually sports some genuine rollick and bounce in its groove to work genuinely well. And hey, given that I do like Corbin as a base performer and would like to see him maybe break back through at a time when neotraditional tones are back in style, I want to like this. But it’s a bland, outdated project that’s trying to be different from the pack yet ends up feeling like just another modern country album devoid of personality – and that’s a shame.
- Favorite tracks: “In It,” “Lonesome Drinkers,” “Whiskey Don’t Take Me Back,” “Somebody’s Gotta Be Country”
- Least favorite tracks: “Let’s Do Country Right,” “Wind You Up”
One thought on “Album Review: Easton Corbin – ‘Let’s Do Country Right’”
Some very good tracks there, I really like “Lonesome Drinkers” as well. My grandson’s name is Easton, though I am sure there is no connection as they are not, not, not Country Music fans. lol.
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