With two prior albums (both reaching #2 on the country charts), four EPs and two #1 singles (plus having wrote Billy Currington's #1 Hit "Good Directions) under his belt, it is safe to say that Luke Bryan has moved beyond "Rising Star" and into "Established" in the country realm. His laid back attitude, coupled with a mix of love ballads and party anthems have earned him a place in the spotlight.
His third full-length album, "Tailgates & Tanlines" has already produced a hit single which currently sits at #4 on the charts.
Country Girl (Shake It For Me) - Luke kicks off the album with the aforementioned single, and it is already a hit in the bars and on the radio. The party anthem tells of Luke's anxiousness to watch his girl put on a show for him, shaking what she has for everyone, but most importantly, for him: "Shake it for the young bucks sittin' in the honky tonks/ For the rednecks rockin' 'till the break of dawn/ The DJ spinnin' that country song/ Come on, come on, come on/ Shake it for the birds, shake it for the bees/ Shake it for the catfish swimmin' down deep in the creek/ For the crickets and the critters and the squirrels/ shake it for the moon/ shake it for me girl/ Country girl shake it for me, girl". The song is definitely catchy and easy to sing along to, and likely will be a #1 here shortly. Enjoy the music video:
Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye - Much like Chris Young's "Tomorrow", Luke is knowingly at the end of the relationship, but is ready for one more night before it is over. Admittedly, the only thing they do right is make love, and that is exactly how they are going to say goodbye: "Take off your leavin' dress/ Let's do what we do best/ I guess everybody's got their way of movin' on/ Girl rest your head one more night in my bed/ Love me like you loved me when you loved me/ and you didn't have to try/ Let's lay down tonight/ and kiss tomorrow goodbye". The song is a much faster, more upbeat song than "Tomorrow" and fits well as a combination of Luke's styles.
Drunk On You - A song that could easily be what is song later in the night from "Country Girl", "Drunk On You" is a summer love ballad that will likely be a single come next April/May. It tells of a party out in the woods, with trucks, crown, and most importantly, a beautiful woman, and Luke is enjoying every minute of all of it, describing himself as "A little drunk on you/ And high on summertime". It is a great bonfire song along the lines of Brantley Gilbert's "My Kinda Party".
Too Damn Young - One of the things this album does really well is start to paint a story. This song follows "Drunk On You" perfectly, as the sun comes up over a dock where Luke and his girl spent the night. Bryan reminisces on the night, realizing that he had been foolish to believe his feelings of the night: "Every time my feet are dangling in the water/ I can't help but think about her lying there, with her wet hair" he sings, later finishing the chorus with "She kissed me like she meant forever/ We were too damn young to know any better"
I Don't Want This Night To End - Once again, a beautiful woman is the object of Luke's attention, this time singing about the girl riding shotgun as they cruise through the town and the country throughout the night, wanting to prolong it as much as possible. "You got your hands up/ You're rockin' in my truck/ You got the radio on/ You're singing every song/ ... / Girl, all I know is I don't want this night to end". The song is reminiscent of Brantley Gilbert's "Back In The Day" and would probably go well in the mix. The guitar near the end is fantastic and is easy to learn and sing along to.
You Don't Know Jack - Country has always been known for teaching lessons, and this song is no exception, starting out with a man begging for a dollar, whom Luke promptly turns down. Before long, the man is explaining that he is right for thinking that he is going to use it to buy alcohol, but "You don't know Jack/ Double shot, eighty proof, on the rocks/ Until you've lost it all/ And you can't go back/ To your life, and your kids, and your ex-wife/ With just a telephone call/ If you think it's just a bottle/ In an old brown paper sack/ You don't know Jack".
Harvest Time - Honestly, my least favorite Luke Bryan songs are the ones like this. I guess because I did not grow up on a farm, I cannot relate. Regardless, it is Autumn, time for football, but more importantly, it is time for the tractors to line up, get fueled up, and begin harvesting the crops. For me, this is one of the forgettable tracks, as nothing really stands out.
I Know You're Gonna Be There - Luke is out for revenge against the girl who broke his heart. He knows that she is going to be at the bar he is going to, so he is looking to make her jealous. He puts on a new shirt, shines up his boots and brings a girl he is going to kiss when he knows she is looking. Everybody has been there, but, if they are honest with themselves, they admit what Luke does at the end "I'm gonna put on my new shirt/ Shine up these old boots/ Truth is when I see ya/ I don't know what I'll do". The song is very relatable, even if it does not impress musically.
Muckalee Creek Water - Bryan has returned home, and when he does, he gets immersed in it, both literally and figuratively. The instant he dips his feet in the creek where he grew up, "Let the stock market do what it's gonna do/ Let the dollar go down and gas soar through the roof". He does not care, he is able to be himself here. The southern rock tone makes for a good recovery from the last two tracks.
Tailgate Blues - Slowing it down again, the song sounds like it draws musical inspiration from Travis Tritt's "Great Day To Be Alive", but with the opposite attitude. Luke's woman has left him. Instead of doing what most country stars do and running to a bar, he retreats to the woods and the bed of his truck instead. I relate to this method more, preferring to be alone to reminisce than to drown the sorrows, so I actually like this song, and enjoy the twist on the "My baby left me..." genre of country.
Been There, Done That - Sounds like Luke has learned his lesson after his ordeal in "Do I" on his previous album. Realizing that there is nothing left, and that she has manipulated him into the man she wants him to be instead of the man he really is, the singer realizes he is done and is moving on: "Cause I ain't, I ain't comin' back/ I've already been there, done that/ And I'm done with you messin' with my mind/ The last time was the last time baby". Luke has a unique way of staying upbeat in the normally down in the dumps songs that is refreshing.
Faded Away - Luke spends a lot of time reminiscing on past loves on this album, and this song continues that theme. As such, this song fades into the background, much like the girl in the song does.
I Knew You That Way - Closing out the album with another slow song about past love, Bryan at least uses vivid imagery to paint a beautiful picture of it. It is rather disappointing that he did not at least try to end the album with a high note like he started it.
Overall, "Tailgates & Tanlines" is not an impressive album. It suffers in a number of places. Several of the songs feel repetitive, and all of the songs feel slow after the opening "Country Girl". I kept waiting for the pace to pick back up, as it did on his previous album, "Doin' My Thing", but ended up disappointed. The beginning of the album made me wish that it had been released earlier in the year for two reasons: 1. They felt more "summer-ish" which did not fit with a mid-summer release, and 2. It is going to be overshadowed by some of the stronger albums released already (Blake Shelton, Eric Church, Justin Moore). On the positive side, the flow from one song to the next felt more natural than most albums. Also, as I pointed out, many of the songs felt like they were telling a story. Luke does a great job of expressing his feelings, but after rocking the opening track, the rest of the album left me wanting more. 6/10