There has been a lot of buzz around the country music scene for the debut album of Nashville 5-piece band Old Dominion – and with good reason! (Reader Challenge: Try and think of a country music album with a name as diverse as Meat and Candy. Don’t stop paying attention to what you are reading though, I’m only on the first paragraph and I already know this review is going to be good!)
Anyway, back to the anticipation of this album. Firstly, it is produced by Shane McAnally. Now, if you are thinking to yourself ‘Who the heck is Shane McAnally?’ (There’s a lot of thinking going on in this review- album names, producers…but bear with me). If you are a fan of country music I guarantee you will have heard either something McAnally has written or produced. Having produced both of Kacey Musgraves’ albums, Sam Hunt’s ‘Montevallo’, and written tracks including ‘Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye’ for Luke Bryan and ‘Better Dig Two’ for The Band Perry, this guy has all the qualities of an all-round country music heavyweight.
Secondly, Old Dominion are made up of 5 hugely talented musicians – Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, Brad Tursi, Whit Sellers and Geoff Sprung, who are all artists in their own right. All 11 tracks on the album are written by members of the band – who happen to know a thing or two about writing a great song. Between them they have written for the likes of Dierks Bentley (‘Say You Do’), Tyler Farr (‘A Guy Walks Into A Bar’) and Blake Shelton (‘Sangria’).
So between producer and band members, ‘Meat and Candy’ has all the ingredients to be a brilliant debut album – and it certainly delivers!
Let’s start with the album name and artwork (I’ve given up trying to think of an album name, hopefully you have better luck!). The ‘Meat’ in the title refers to the heavier (meatier) tracks on the album such as ‘We Got It Right’ and ‘Nowhere Fast’, which still happen to turn into toe tapping sing-a-longs, whilst the ‘Candy’ refers to the light-hearted songs that allow the band to express their fun side in songs like ‘Snapback’, ‘Break Up With Him’ and ‘Beer Can In A Truck Bed’. To be honest though, every song could be either Meat or Candy as all 11 tracks are intricately written with clever melodies that leave you wanting to hear more and finding it impossible to not tap your feet to.
Along with the name, the album artwork is also going to instantly grab your attention. The photographer responsible has famously worked alongside Katy Perry and goes completely against the grain of your bog standard country music artwork that mainly consists of the artists portrait and not a lot else. It shows a (rather attractive) lady standing over a table of meat and candy whilst reading a book and preparing to serve some food – I think!
The personality of Old Dominion is captured brilliantly in the name and artwork of the album, and both set us up perfectly for what ‘Meat and Candy’ has in store before we have even listened to the first song.
‘Break Up With Him’ is the lead single from the album, released earlier on in the year and has already sold nearly 500,000 copies and gone to number one in the country airplay charts – a massive feat for the debut song from a debut album! Fans of Old Dominion will already be familiar with this song, as it also featured on the band’s self-titled EP released last year. The message of this song is enough to make it successful. It’s refreshing, clever and extremely selfish. It tells the story of a guy who loves a girl who is already in a relationship, and his attempt to get her to leave her current partner in order to start a relationship with him. With its pop hook, and RnB sound to draw you in, along with husky vocals from lead singer Matthew Ramsey (who seems to remind me of Brett Eldredge in this song, and also Sam Hunt with the song’s half-spoken verses) it will definitely leave you wanting to see what the rest of the album has to offer – providing you can get this song off repeat. By the way, if you haven’t watched the video Old Dominion did for this song, it’s definitely worth a watch! YouTube it now, I’ll wait!
One of the main things I love about this album is that you get a real feel for how much fun the band are having. The harmonies in Old Dominion are perfect, and ensure that the album never tires. Most songs on the album fit into the ‘mainstream’ country bracket, however there is something refreshing about Meat and Candy that will turn heads, even ones who may not be huge fans of this type of country music. There aren’t really any songs that will delve deep into your emotions, or quieten a conversation to hear a heartfelt ballad, however all the songs are radio-friendly, easy on the ear and will inevitably end up on repeat for days.
Songs like ‘Snapback’, ‘Crazy Beautiful Sexy’ and ‘Wrong Turns’ are extremely hard to not sing along to. There are some great guitar licks, catchy lyrics and an invigorating beat that ensure this album is a lot more than meets the eye. ‘Said Nobody’ is another clever song which has a catchy Caribbean style beat to it and amusing lyrics, but none of which delve deeper than the tone that was set from the albums lead single.
I’d describe this album as Sam Hunt meets Florida Georgia Line. If you are into the pop/hip hop turn that country music has made recently then you will love this album. However, there isn’t really a country song in sight. Occasionally, the album adds the sound of a mandolin and lead singer Ramsey puts a twang in his voice on a couple of songs, but for the majority of the time it is the contemporary music that we have become accustomed to of late. Songs like ‘Song For Another Time’ and ‘We Got It Right’, as song titles made me wonder if this album would go deeper than just girls, tailgates and beer, but they ensure it stayed on the same level throughout.
These guys as individuals are super talented, and with the back catalogue of song writing credits to their name I was hoping for maybe more than a one dimensional subject and something reminiscent of ‘Say You Do’, which they wrote for Dierks Bentley, however every song is pretty much the same vibe and the same subject – which leaves me slightly disappointed as I know this band has so much more to offer.
I’m not saying it’s a bad album though, just that I know the band have so much more to offer than the songs they have recorded here, and I hope we get to witness that in future albums. Every song on here is catchy and definitely fresh. The harmonies and lyrics ensure that the album doesn’t get repetitive (even though a lot of the themes are), and you will absolutely get them stuck in your head and have them on repeat. I think with its mainstream vibe and poppy rhythm this album will be very successful commercially, but as a country music album it leaves me grateful that we have artists like Chris Stapleton and Kacey Musgraves who are very much fighting the country music corner and ensuring other artists begin to do the same.
- Half Empty
- Wrong Turns
- Said Nobody
- Crazy Beautiful Sexy
- Nowhere Fast
- Beer Can in a Truck Bed
- Break Up with Him
- Song for Another Time
- Til It’s Over
- We Got It Right
Twitter – @andyc19942 @LifeInASong_UK