Bryan con­tin­ues fine form flirty, good-na­tured tunes

Waterloo Region Record - - NIGHT LIFE - Mark Kennedy

LUKE BRYAN “WHAT MAKES YOU COUN­TRY” (CAPI­TOL RECORDS NASHVILLE )

If Luke Bryan has faced crit­i­cism from some coun­try purists that his an­thems aren’t true to the mu­sic form’s roots, he’s got an an­swer — a po­lite one, mind you — for them.

The open­ing ti­tle song on his 15track CD “What Makes You Coun­try” of­fers a wel­com­ing, big tent view of the genre the in­cludes cowboys in Texas, hunters in Ge­or­gia and folks haul­ing bails or fish­ing or “cov­ered in peanut dust.”

The mes­sage is clear — whether coun­try is in your blood or you were con­verted by a song on the ra­dio, don’t judge. “You do your kinda coun­try/I do my kinda coun­try,” he sings.

Bryan’s coun­try is play­ful, in­clu­sive, flirty and good-na­tured on the al­bum. He’s still knock­ing back a few — “Hun­gover in a Ho­tel Room,” “Drink­ing Again” (and later a cute shout-out to Bey­once with the lyric “drunk in love”) — but his op­ti­mism is undi­luted by booze.

Few other peo­ple could sing the sappy “Most Peo­ple Are Good” and get away with it. (Also, he gets ku­dos for the ap­par­ent em­brace of same-sex cou­ples, a log­i­cal ex­ten­sion of his big tent in­clu­sive­ness: “I be­lieve you love who you love/Ain’t noth­ing you should ever be ashamed of ”)

The al­bum sags some­what in the mid­dle — “Sun­rise, Sun­burn, Sun­set,” “Bad Lovers” and “She’s a Hot One” are a lit­tle weak — but Bryan roars back with the sweet and fa­therly “Pick It Up” and the sexy rocker “Driving This Thing.”

“What Makes You Coun­try” feels a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of 2015’s “Kill the Lights” and is filled with tunes you’ll be stomp­ing along with long be­fore they’ve even fin­ished their first spin. One of the highlights is “Light It Up,” in which he con­fesses he anx­iously checks his cell­phone ev­ery few min­utes for word back from a lover: “I get so neu­rotic about it, baby.”

Bryan also gets a song­writ­ing credit on seven of the songs — and they’re among the strong­est. Call what he does what­ever you like — mod­ern-coun­try, bro-coun­try, arena-coun­try or cross­over-coun­try — Bryan is not go­ing to have trou­ble get­ting his calls re­turned.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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