Danny Worsnop will not be a name Country fans are familiar with given his day job is lead singer with heavy metal band Asking Alexandria, but it appears he has a redneck soul. Certainly, his life so far has been such a series of dramatic ups and downs that he has enough material to fill any number of confessional albums, be they Country or not. Chart fame with Asking Alexandria, drink and drug problems, impregnating strippers, weight gain, weight loss and general ass-holery with fans and musicians alike have given Worsnop a rich and fertile set of stories to tell and ‘The Long Road Home’ appears to be the culmination of his journey to this point, not bad for a lad from Beverley, East Yorkshire!!
The elephant in the room here is whether this is an authentic move into Country (a la Darius Rucker) which will see Worsnop pay his dues to the town of Nashville (he is currently living out there) and the industry or whether this is a calculated move into a genre on the up that is easier on the voice than the shrieking and screaming he has been associated with previously (Steven Tyler anyone?). It’s not my place to judge given I’ve never spoken to or interviewed him but the question I ask myself is will Worsnop still be making Country albums in ten years time? Hmmm, I’ll get back to you on that.
The album beings with ‘Prozac’, a sedate waltz-like number about the aforementioned drug. There is a slight ‘Big & Rich’ novelty feel to the song and I guess we are all supposed to be impressed by the ‘Prozac and coffee black, it’s for me and you, we drugs of choice’ sensibilities of the song but it doesn’t work for me, big deal. Not big or clever, I’ll often say to my 12 year old son when his mates start bragging about how dangerous they are.
Track 2, ‘Mexico’ is more up-tempo, the traditional party / drinking song set south of the American border. “Watching senoritas dance on the beach as I’m singing about Johnny and Willie,” Worsnop sings, in full party mode. Again, authenticity here is my issue – has he ever been to Mexico? Does he live the life he espouses in these songs or is it cynical songwriting in a genre well mined for those ideals? When Kenny Chesney, Sammy Hagar or Zac Brown sing about the beach and Mexico you know damn well they sing from experience. The jury is still out for me here.
‘I Feel Shit’ follows and is a hillbilly honky-tonk bar room song about hangovers. It’s a fun song that owes as much to Cockney, Chas and Dave style piano romps as it does to anything from Texas or Tennessee.
Drug song. Check.
Beach song. Check.
Hangover song. Check.
It’s like Worsnop has been reading the playbook for Country rock inspirations however the next two songs, ‘Anyone But Me’ and ‘High’ bring the album’s first real moments of quality. The former is a darker, slower and moodier look in the mirror. “I know myself too well to lead you on, please love anyone but me,” Worsnop sings – this is our first look behind the hard drinking, beach living, drug taking party boy and its confessional nature draws us in and makes us believe in the this song. Ditto ‘High’. It has the same feel as the preceding song and the same confessional tone being another look behind the façade of fame, “I had it all once and I took it for granted,” Worsnop admits in another honest moment of self awareness.
‘I Got Bones’ is next. A Black Stone Cherry-esque heavy plodder with a funky beat and big chorus. Here we have another decent song that I imagine works well live. ‘Quite a While’, ‘I’ll Hold On’ and ‘Same Old Ending’ all mine the same territory as ‘Anyone But Me’ – slick, heavy-ended ballads with bluesy overtones that could easily be re-worked into hard rock songs in the style of Worsnop’s previous bands or more traditional bands like UK stalwarts, Thunder. The lyrics of both could be said to be Country, particularly ‘Quite A While’ which has the one and only reference to Jesus on the album, a dangerous move for an East Yorkshire boy! “I think it’s time I talk to Jesus……but the devil in the bottles’ telling me I never will.”
‘Midnight Woman’ is a solid, bluesy track reminiscent of Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora in lyrical content and vocal delivery. Slight Chris Stapleton overtones lend it more Country credibility but again this is one of those songs that could easily be at home on a rock album as it is positioned here, on a Country album.
The album ends with ‘The Man’, a Charlie Daniels – ‘Devil Went Down to Gerogia’ style up-tempo, spoken word romp. Worsnop’s raw, raspy vocals suit the song and it is a good tale, well told although again, there is that little voice in the back of my head wondering where the inspiration for this song came from, whether or not this is a calculated piece of writing or whether this is an authentic chunk of Country rock?
‘The Long Road Home’ is a difficult album to listen to and review. It’s open, honest and raw lyrics fit very well into the venn diagram of ‘How to Produce a Successful Country Album’ and Worsnop doesn’t pull any punches in his self-assessment or self-reflection. That’s to be applauded. What I can’t resolve, however, is his motivation and I guess only time will tell on that one. Many of these songs could be tweaked into hard rock songs and for many Country fans they will be too heavy to stomach but for those people that walk the hinterland between rock and country, you may well find plenty here to sink your teeth into as Worsnop begins another phase in his turbulent and eventful life. Given the time and some further Nashville influence, Worsnop has the potential to find a home for himself within this much loved genre of ours. I’m just not sure he is there yet.
James Daykin (@rockjames)