Morgan Wallen’s meteoric rise has been impossible to ignore over the past year. With his debut album ‘If I Know Me’ certified platinum, he followed up with a universally-acclaimed rendition of Jason Isbell’s ‘Cover Me Up’, and two smash-hit #1 singles in ‘More Than My Hometown’ and ‘7 Summers’. The quality of his output, Luke Combs aside, is unrivalled on the mainstream charts at the moment, and his bad-boy-turned-good public image has endeared himself to fans far and wide. Today, we have his new double-album, ‘Dangerous’, giving fans a mighty fix of the next chapter in the Morgan Wallen story.
You might like the double-album release method, you may not. It’s unusual to see, nowadays, in the modern world of EPs and standalone singles, and there are arguments to support both sides. In this instance, it’s a difficult album to review without listening a few times over, and inevitably a selection of songs sort of get lost in the mix, which will be the case for the listener. You’ll probably pick out your favourite 10 tracks and leave the rest. That’s not to say there’s no quality elsewhere on the album, it’s just difficult for the average listener to retain so much content, with the way we consume music nowadays and the sheer amount of choice. Maybe a half-then-half strategy would have been beneficial, and would have given some of these songs a better platform.
Opening track ‘Sand In My Boots’ sets the tone for a top-notch collection. A tale of a beach-town fling that didn’t fulfil the initial hopes, it’s a beautifully written track by Ashley Gorley, Hardy and Josh Osborne, which Morgan delivers in style with his signature gritty vocals. A huge radio hit in waiting, which can be said for quite a few on the album.
It’s on these more acoustic-based tracks, stripping back the R&B influences, where Morgan Wallen really shines. Another of the major stand-outs is ‘More Surprised Than Me’, which rising star Niko Moon penned. The outside cuts are terrific throughout, and it shows the calibre of Morgan Wallen when you have the likes of Niko, Rhett Akins, Shane McAnally, Thomas Rhett and Eric Church offering their services. ‘865’ is another prime example of the acoustic vibe which suits him to a tee, with stunning songcraft about the despair of a lost relationship and turning to a “bottle”. Written by lesser-known songwriters John Byron and Blake Pendergrass, it showcases Wallen’s great ear for a top quality song.
A go-to track for many will no doubt be the duet with Chris Stapleton, ‘Only Thing That’s Gone’, a collaboration which just works so well. It’s a lovely fusion of the two artists’ sounds, with huge mainstream appeal whilst maintaining the acoustic, traditional elements which we know from Stapleton’s material. It’s an absolute anthem that deserves to be belted out at the top of everyone’s voice in a big arena. One of the strongest tracks in this collection.
If you prefer the more edgy, proud-to-be-a-redneck side to Morgan Wallen’s sound, there’s plenty here to keep you happy, too. ‘Country A$$ Shit’ is just about as out-there as it gets in that regard, and the Devin Dawson-penned ‘Whatcha Think Of Country Now’ follows in a similar vein. That whole section on Part 2 of the album, from ‘Country A$$ Shit’ to ‘Need A Boat’ is the ‘country party’ part of the marathon. That’s the beauty of such a substantial project, there’s something here for everyone and it exposes all facets of Wallen’s versatility.
The album closes with an Eric Church, Luke Laird and Josh Thompson-penned beauty, titled ‘Quittin’ Time’, intelligently placed to give the song a prime position in the spotlight. There’s something about Eric Church’s songcraft that’s just so distinctive and instantly recognisable:
“There’s all-day thinking time, and all night drinking time
And time to sing or time to find if rhyme has a reason…
I can tell by the tears not in your eyes, it’s quittin’ time”
In the same way that Church’s ‘Some Of It’ captured magic from everyday life with pure, innocent lyricism, ‘Quittin’ Time’ finds an inventive way to encapsulate the moment of acceptance when a relationship has reached its end point. Sublime.
When investigating the new tracks on this double-album, it’s easy to forget about the already-released singles and instant-grat songs, which cranked up the anticipation for this album to a whole new level. We listed ‘7 Summers’ as our #1 country single of 2020 – an absolute classic in our book, and ‘More Than My Hometown’ which has rightfully generated a huge buzz since it stormed up the radio charts. ‘Somebody’s Problem’ is another true heartstring-tugger and has become an instant fan favourite, whilst ‘Still Goin’ Down’ feels like throwback-FGL in their prime, with so much radio potential.
One thing’s for sure, Morgan Wallen certainly can’t be criticised for drip-feeding new material. This is a mega project showcasing an artist operating at the very top of his game, with only a few ‘filler’ tracks which is some feat for a 30-song album. This will no doubt be one of the biggest country albums of 2021, and thoroughly deserves to be. We have a new superstar on our hands.