Big Smo - Kuntry Livin'
Personnel: JD Simo (guitar); Andrew DeRoberts (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, programming); Charlie Worsham (slide guitar, banjo); David Yudkin (slide guitar, fiddle, cello); Jimmy Stewart (fiddle); Peter Keys (piano, organ); Rich Redman (drums).Recording information: Sony Tree; The Kuntry Kitchen; Warner Nashville Studios. The hick-hop boom of the 2013-2014 season continued with the Big Smo's major-label debut album, the release of which just happened to coincide with the premiere of his reality TV series. Put a couple country superstars on the guest list (Frankie Ballard and Darius Rucker), jam the track list with anthems worthy of Kid Rock or Colt Ford ("Bumpy Road" and "Come On" are strong, stadium-sized singalongs), and then stage the cover for that "rebel" appeal ("Smo. can you hold the moonshine jar a lil' higher?") and the corporate cornpone formula will pay off splendidly, but Kuntry Livin' can't be written off so easily. Partly because Smo's got charisma and partly because he's a crafty, scrappy fellow with a Lil Wyte affiliation linking him to the underground and an approach that says "Hell, I can do this," which might be the optimal way to come at a hick-hop album. The brilliantly titled "Hick Ross" barks "I'm the grand champ of my camp, like a ten-point buck/You'll get that 12-gauge spray if you mess with my truck!" and anyone who spends Saturdays in a Cabela's or a Big Three car lot can testify, while numbers like "Workin'" and "Redneck Rich" ("There's always somethin' hooked to my hitch") are Johnny Paycheck's "Take This Job and Shove It" or Rush's "Working Man" updated for the MP3 generation. Surprising when Smo pours his heart out about loss ("Some people can stay in your heart, but not in your life") and wins during the moving "Cover My Eyes," and surprising that the album runs 14 tracks long and stands strong right to the end. Redundancy, however, might be an issue as the party numbers simply alternate between hootin' and hollerin', but as hick-hop albums from reality stars go, this is a mo see more...
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