It’s that time again! UK fan favourite Kip Moore is back with a new record, and boy, it’s a statement of intent. The ‘Wild Ones’ album, for me, has always been his best and most consistent piece of work, and is certainly one of the iconic albums when I look back on the previous decade. A very difficult album to top, but comparing it to this latest ‘Wild World’ collection is a really close call. With this new batch of songs, Kip has achieved new heights with the Springsteen-esque, soaring production techniques, elevating his ever-developing lyricism to a whole new level. It’s so refreshing to witness an artist going about his business so organically, and you can feel the rawness, and the heart and soul, throughout the album.
There are times of up-beat fun, with the likes of the bouncy ‘Hey Old Lover’ and ‘Grow On You’, and there are moments of deep reflection and thoughtfulness, with ‘Fire and Flame’ and ‘Paying Hard’. The overall depth of the album, both sonically and lyrically, is the best of Kip’s mightily impressive career to date, and it feels like he’s settled on a sound that suits him to a tee.
The opening two tracks are live-concert-Kip at his finest, starting with the anthemic ‘Janie Blue’. Starting with a simple acoustic guitar introduction and Kip’s attention-seizing vocals – “where you off to, Janie Blue?” – it builds and builds to a ginormous chorus that just cries out for a crowd of people singing their hearts out. Right from the first track, you know you’re in for one hell of a ride here. ‘Start as you mean to go on’, as they say. This is followed up with the edgy ‘Southpaw’, a sure-fire live show opener, and a typically superb moment of unapologetic, blue collar defiance from the best outlier in country music.
‘Fire and Flame’ is right up there with ‘Crazy One More Time’ and ‘That Was Us’ in the upper echelons of Kip’s catalogue. This is a simply storming track, with a chorus that explodes into life:
“I guess I’m stuck here in the middle. ‘Cos I got this reckless heart that I can’t tame. Just when I think I’ve reigned it in a little, I’m still somewhere between the fire and flame”
This is the most well-produced track of 2020 without a shadow of a doubt – it’s so atmospheric, so dramatic and oozes vibes of Springsteen and also a touch of Mark Cohn. There’s such soul and immense passion to the whole recording, from the gradual growth of the melody to Kip’s pain-induced, gravelly delivery. A sublime piece of work here that showcases Kip Moore at his absolute thriving best.
‘Red, White, Blue Jean American Dream’ impresses too, with its in-your-face electric guitars and hugely infectious, fast-paced chorus. It addresses how everyone has different goals and achievements in life, reeling off the classic tales – “Cash went to Nashville, Mark Twain floating on the Mississippi Queen” before finding contentment in “rolling down the road, you and me just chasing that red, white, blue jean American dream”. It’s full of that blue collar, down-home approach that his legion of followers will undoubtedly connect with, and a banging tune too.
But this album isn’t all country-rock anthems by any stretch of the imagination. There are some wonderful, stripped-back, acoustic-based tracks such as ‘More Than Enough’, with Kip once again finding acceptance and happiness with the simplest things in life. “Girl, I know we ain’t got much, in a world that says you need a lot of stuff… it’s more than enough for me”. Kip pulls off this gentler, introspective side so well, and there’s a truly endearing feel to the open-book, almost self-deprecating style of his storytelling here.
The same can be said for the closing track, ‘Payin’ Hard’, which showcases Kip’s incredibly vulnerable side, reminiscent of ‘Guitar Man’ and ‘Comeback Kid’. It seems to be a recurring trend for Kip to complete each album with a contemplation song, and this one in particular is a stunner. “My life’s a credit card, play now – pay later, and I’m payin’ hard” – what a brilliant line. It’s a lesson to us all about living each moment as if it were our last, and to value every last second we have with our loved ones. One day, when those moments are gone, we could look back and regret the opportunities we missed. As a touring musician, this applies to Kip more than most, and it’s a sublime depiction of Kip ‘cashing in his soul’.
Elsewhere, other highlights include ‘Sweet Virginia’ with its lovely summery, funky vibe and the soaring electric guitars right at the forefront, and ‘South’, which is the most off-piste track on the record, without veering too far from the path. The intro sounds more like something you’d hear on one of The 1975’s records, and it’s got a great toe-tapping groove to it, similar to ‘Good Thing’ on the ‘Slowheart’ record. The difference is, this one has a lot more melodic complexity, with an utterly fantastic instrumental towards the end that will be an absolute beast to perform live.
I’m running out of adjectives here so I’ll conclude. We’re lucky to have such a consistent, authentic artist operating at such a high level in our era, and this is an album that deserves so much attention outside of our realms. If you’re a big fan of Kip’s previous stuff, as we are, you won’t be disappointed. He’s cranked it up another notch, and this is a badass collection to keep you entertained through the summer.