This was one of the albums of 2017 we were most looking forward to hearing here at YLIAS. Brett Young’s debut EP, released in February last year, was a permanent fixture on our playlists and demonstrated an artist with an intriguing vocal style, soulful grooves and song writing with real substance. ‘Sleep Without You’ launched Brett into the mainstream fray, reaching #2 on country radio, and his follow-up single ‘In Case You Didn’t Know’ looks like it could be about to follow suit. Both singles are included on the album.
Brett Young won’t be the country traditionalists’ artist of choice. Obvious R&B and soul influences run prevalently through the album, but this is executed with great sincerity and warmth, combined with familiar country instrumentation. Brett’s soulful, raspy voice, although an acquired taste, is personally a delight and you can feel the raw emotion in his delivery. His brightest moments on the album come with the likes of ‘Like I Loved You’, written from the perspective of someone feeling the pain of a lost romance, seeing them “in someone else’s arms”. When I first heard the EP last year, I thought this was nailed on for a single release. Immense mainstream potential with real depth and heartiness that showcases everything Brett Young is about.
In truth, it’s an album full of potential hit records. ‘Close Enough’ mirrors the style that Old Dominion have made so successful recently; packed full of electric guitars, a foot-stomping rhythm and an ear-worm of a hook “I can’t get you close enough, I can’t get you close enough”. ‘Left Side Of Leaving’ utilises a similar style, combining the synthesised sounds used so effectively by the likes of Sam Hunt, combining it with acoustic guitar in an incredibly infectious pop-country anthem.
The best track on the album by some distance is ‘Off The Wagon’, one of the most notably ‘country’ songs on offer. Sublime production from legendary hit-maker Dan Huff on a truly gorgeous atmospheric track about two lovers living the wild lifestyle who just can’t live without each other. It screams ‘country radio’ from start to finish and is destined to be a massive smash-hit. This is where Brett comes into his own, when he’s got the opportunity to pour out emotions and take the listener on a journey. ‘Olivia May’ is another one of the album’s highlights for the same reason, starting at the beginning of a romance with great admiration for a girl, taking us all the way to their eventual marriage. The criticism some may have is that many of the songs are rather formulaic in structure and pander to the mainstream methods, which is a fair argument, but Brett’s honest, relatable approach to song writing will set him apart from the rest.
The final track on the album ‘Mercy’ is another personal favourite piano ballad that slows the pace down with a sombre tone, written about a very desperate situation in the aftermath of a broken relationship. Dan Huff’s experience with the likes of Rascal Flatts comes in to play here in an emotionally-charged powerhouse of a song.
It’s no surprise that Brett Young was included on so many ‘ones to watch’ lists at the end of 2016. This album is a very impressive introduction to an artist who has the potential to be the next dominant force in country music. He’s an artist who clearly knows exactly what direction he wants to go, the girls will love him, and there’s great consistency and substance to his music. Brett Young could go very far, keep an eye on him.