by Guest Reviewer, Roger Sharman
There are not many releases that compel me to write a review and Randall king’s first full-length recording absolutely demands it! It’s been labelled ‘Neo-Traditional’ similarly to Midlands ‘On the Rocks’, I didn’t buy that and I’m not buying this either. This is damn fine, straight up traditional Country Music, the way Country Music should sound. It evokes comparisons to greats such as Keith Whitley, Alan Jackson, early Randy Travis and George Strait. True to Country traditions, it’s a record about being on the Road, breaking up and new love. ‘Freightline’ is right out of a rural West Texas Honky Tonk – no surprise there, Mr King hails from Amarillo. Its chugging bassline and steel, evoking memories of Waylon at his finest. It gets you singing along straightaway, head bobbing & foot tapping all the way through or pulling the nearest Daisy Duke up for a wheel around the dancefloor.
It’s a song about working the roads, putting the hard mileage in and getting the job done so that he can be “back in her sweet arms is where I really wanna be”. Randall’s classic Country voice comes to the fore immediately.
The extremely beautiful ‘Takin Me a Heartbreak’ opens with smooth, summery acoustic & steel guitar intro straight into a ‘Jacksonesque’ like vocal, the whole song just oozes long, hot summery scenes. Even though it’s a breakup song it’s a happy one, and I’ve found this throughout the album.
‘Mirror Mirror’, the second single, is one of the tracks that’s grabbing the headlines and rightly so. It’s a classic Country, slow-burning jam, similar in vein to Midland’s ‘Drinking Problem’ in tempo and sound. Standing up favourably in comparison and dealing with a traditional Country subject – heartbreak.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall
Who’s the biggest fool of all?
I bet you could take a guess
All you gotta do is reflect
Mirror, mirror on the wall”
For me this is one of the outstanding songs, from one of the outstanding long players of the year. One thing apparent throughout the release is the tightness of the band.
‘Cool Under Pressure’ is another upbeat foot-tapping, sing-a-longer, about a young man who’s fallen for a fair maiden but doesn’t want to mess it up by coming on too strong, too soon.
Indeed, this record flips between upbeat and down-tempo, happy and sad. Randall’s voice accomplishes both with ease, so it’s understandable that Garth Brooks has taken Randall under his wing. Bearing that in mind it would easy to believe that this could be an artist’s 4th or 5th album, not their first. He’s a natural!
‘One Goodbye’ is a beautiful slice of laidback summer on the open road. Another one of Randall’s happy/sad songs. He manages to give hope to the broken-hearted track after track.
‘Tuggin’ on my Heartstrings’, the first single from the album, really showcases Randall’s vocal ability. Another chugging bassline, paired with a Texas fiddle intro and Steel melodies.
‘When He knows Me’ is another of my favourites. It’s a song about Randall’s Grandfather. Its quite clear that family is very important in that part of the world, more so than most I would say, and Randall clearly dotes on his family. He has said, “my biggest influence within this record is my family.” Grandad must have been a trucker who suffers with Alzheimers. The song-writing is outstanding here, painting the picture perfectly. It’s poignantly beautiful.
“Dent in It’ is another Honky Tonker. Much in the vein of ‘Freightline’, rollicking on down that dotted white line “pedal to the metal down a county road’, getting that tempo back up, rocking a great guitar solo. It’s a rowdy song, that’ll get the young men chanting along like their lives depended on it.
‘Keep her on the Line’ is another outstanding track, chronicling the torment of a young man trying to stop a break-up by keeping his girl on the phone, talking. Typically, that slide guitar, one of the most emotive instruments, compliments Randall’s vocals perfectly, interlaced with the delicious acoustic guitar.
‘Her Miss Me Days Are Gone’ is another slice of summer. If you imagine hitting the freeways, drop-top down, Aviators on, with this blaring out. Then pulling up at the lights, looking across and seeing a beautiful girl, smiling, winking, and pulling off into the sunset. ‘Reason to Quit’ showcases some glorious slide guitar and heavenly harmonies in this laidback finale. It’s a fitting ending too.
In summary, Randall king has a huge future making real country music for the working man, for the heartbroken and for anyone who appreciates strong melodies. He’s a star in the making, with the potential to become one of the greats if he continues to develop his song-writing, the voice is already there.
Given the options of Spotify, buy, or let the CD fly – this one’s definitely a buy! It’s one of the records of the year.