ALBUM REVIEW: Old Dominion (Self-Titled Album)

LifeInASong_UK

Hot on the heels of their terrific UK shows, the Old Dominion boys are back with new music. With this self-titled album, Old Dominion have lived up to expectations with their most diverse, adventurous but also cohesive album to date. You’ll find a mixture of sounds and influences, all the way from dance music to pure roots, showcasing their immense musicianship and constantly-developing creativity. It has its fun moments, and it also has moments of real depth lyrically, which fans of the band have come to expect from their output. To put it in very simple terms, they just write damn good songs; probably the most consistently good act in country music.

Half of the album was already available before today, so fans had a taste of what to expect from the project. I’m more a fan of the traditional release process, where that element of discovery is maintained for the full album, but nowadays there’s such a focus on building streaming numbers and driving pre-orders that it’s something we just have to accept.

Shane McAnally has once again had a profound impact, having co-produced the album with the guys, and he also co-wrote six of the tracks. It’s a formula that hasn’t let them down so far, and if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Elsewhere, we see heavy-hitting writers like Ross Copperman, Josh Osborne and Jesse Frasure, just to name a few. These are all songs crafted by some of the very best and most experienced in the Nashville song writing community.

‘Never Be Sorry’ is the biggest departure from the norm in terms of the production, whilst still maintaining that familiar Old Dominion electric guitar finesse. It’s such an infectious, dance-infused groove that you won’t be able to sit still listening to. It was the highlight of their show in Birmingham last week for me, and seems to have become a big fan favourite already. ‘Some People Do’ is also a daring one, and certainly the deepest moment on the album in terms of subject matter. The vulnerability of Matt’s stunning vocal backed by that spine-tingling piano is an absolute joy, and showcases a new dimension to the band that we haven’t seen yet. ‘I’ll Roll’ is another big highlight. You can sort of imagine them all gathered round a camp fire; it’s a new rootsy dimension that we haven’t heard from the guys until now.

The middle section explores some very soul-influenced melodies. ‘Midnight Mess Around’ carries a special value for the guys, as one of the co-writers was the late Andrew Dorff. Instantly loveable and infectious, it’s pure Old Dominion with immense mainstream appeal. ‘Do It With Me’ cranks up the soul another notch, almost transporting us back to the 80’s with a really smooth, laid-back, throwback groove, and ‘Hear You Now’ is the ultimate roll-your-windows-down, summer chill-out anthem. Every track has its own place here – no ‘filler’ in sight.

The two very best tracks the album has to offer are ‘My Heart Is A Bar’ and ‘Paint The Grass Green’. The former is one of the most cleverly-written songs of 2019; a totally unique perspective of someone “tired of being a shoulder… never having one around”. The play on the ‘bar’ metaphor is superb – “kill the lights and pay the boys, fire the band and take the poison off the shelf”. It’s a #1 smash-hit in waiting. ‘Paint The Grass Green’ is also in that category; an outpouring of affection, and also desperation, for that special someone, written with that signature Old Dominion wit and magic.

With this collection, they’ve given the label a real headache when it comes to choosing singles. Assuming there is probably one, maybe two radio singles left to come from this album, literally any track on the album has the potential to soar to the top of the charts. They seem to have really honed in on what their fans love, and never stray too far from that path. They’re a great example of how to push creative boundaries without alienating a fan base; they’ve done that sublimely with this album. The ‘Happy Endings’ album was a very tough one to beat, but the quality of this one is certainly on par.

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan

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