Jon Pardi is one of the rare breed of country artists who have resisted the temptation to transform their sound to appeal to the mainstream country crowd. This hasn’t held him back in terms of radio appeal though; 5 top 40 singles to date and a #3 album back in 2014. Jon returns with his new album ‘California Sunrise’, an important indication of where he’s going with his career. The lead single ‘Head Over Boots’ was a promising taster, a bouncy, infectious track that maintains his signature traditional feel.
“I always want to have the traditional country soul while meeting the new standards of country music,” said Jon in a press release. “As with traditional country music, much of the appeal comes from a compelling narrative. As a songwriter, we’re looking for a good story, and we’re always looking to push the limits. I love having those lyrics that at first make you think it’s about one thing, but it’s really about something so much more.”
You know exactly what you’re going to get. ‘Out Of Style’ kicks things off, a killer, downright country track packed full of guitars and banjos with an anthemic bridge that will provide a great moment for crowd interaction in his live shows. It’s a feel-good working man’s tune about not conforming to trends and being proud of who you are; music to the ears of a country music fan. “It may never see a bullet In a billboard magazine, but then I’ve never been the kind to go out chasing smoking guns. All I know is all of us tonight know all the words and we’re acting like It’ll be a week before the weekend’s done”.
If you’re fond of the ‘modern’ take on country, don’t fear. Although the majority of tracks here are true to Jon’s roots, there are a couple of tracks that stray from the path. Take ‘Dirt On My Boots’ for example; “might have a little mud on my wheels but they gonna shine with you up inside”… yes, another one of those songs. Experimental? Or encouraged by a record label to fit the modern country mould?
Don’t let this take the “shine” off the rest of the album though. There are a number of real highlights, including the next track ‘She Ain’t In It’. A transition from bro-country to George Strait in seconds. “Don’t wanna hear her name, don’t wanna see her face I swear, I know its gonna hurt If I run into her somewhere”. A wonderful pedal steel-backed delight about the struggles of moving on when that certain someone is still on your mind. This is Jon at his very best.
‘Night Shift’ is a good bet for a future single. One of Jon’s personal favourites, it’s such a radio-friendly track that still maintains a real ‘country’ feel with the fiddles in the background. Jon describes it as the “working man’s love song”. ‘Heartache On The Dancefloor’ also has commercial potential with its dance-infused, rather soulful aura. It’ll certainly appeal to the newer generation of country fans; definitely one for the country disco nights.
The album finishes with ‘California Sunrise’, a tribute to the beauty of his home state. The lyrics truly paint a picture of that classic country love story; looking back on a past love, reminiscing about being together until the sun comes up. “You could hear the wind howling across the ocean and the taste of the wine and the buzz still in my head. And the only wildfire was burning right beside me, and we had us a night I’ll never forget. She was a 1960’s Beach Boys song and we’re living that dream all night long in that California sunrise”. The instrumentation builds throughout the track and it’s so energetic, leaving you wanting more. This is what’s known as going out with a bang!
This is another very solid release from an artist who deserves a lot of respect for doing it his own way. It’s difficult to find the right balance between what appeals to you as an artist and what will appeal to the masses, but there’s enough on here to please everybody. Rather refreshing to see from an artist who still has much of his career ahead of him; hopefully a few others will follow. Jon is set to go on tour with Kip Moore this fall….hopefully we’ll see him back in the UK soon.