Last week, Garth Brooks released his first album of all new material since 2001’s Scarecrow. The man who is second only to the Beatles in all-time album sales, has also begun what is expected to be a lengthy world tour. The tickets have been selling just like in his heyday, the album not as well but not bad considering his long absence. Also, you can factor in the poor performance of first single “People Loving People” at country radio and Brooks’ refusal to make his music available on iTunes (helping start a rival service called GhostTunes) and streaming services. The state of mainstream country, including Garth’s place in it, is a topic for another day. Here is my track by track review of one of the most anticipated releases this year:
1. Man Against Machine- One of 3 tracks co-written by Brooks. It’s the most rock sounding song on the album. Is he singing about technology or the state of the music industry? Interesting, if not totally successful.
2. She’s Tired of Boys- Another Brooks co-write. Traditional country sound mixed with cranked up guitars. Brooks’ wife Trisha Yearwood provides backing vocals. The two have always sounded good together going back to their first albums. That long talked about duets album needs to happen soon.
3. Cold Like That- Sounds like something that would’ve been on the “Chris Gaines” album. I don’t mean that in a bad way, either. Great guitar solo at the end.
4. All-American Kid- Solid song about a kid who plays high school football, then enlists in the military. Co-written by Craig Campbell, who’s had some radio hits of his own.
5. Mom- The second single, which should do very well at radio. Some may find it too sappy and sentimental but Garth sells it and makes it quite touching.
6. Wrong About You- This one made me wish it was longer (it’s just under 2 minutes) just to hear more dobro by the great Jerry Douglas.
7. Rodeo and Juliet- A good old-fashioned Western swing tune, co-written by Brooks. Short and sweet.
8. Midnight Train- This one has a nice driving rhythm. Definitely a highlight.
9. Cowboys Forever- Garth has always loved cowboy songs, but this one’s a little different. Cops, soldiers and truck drivers are compared to cowboys.
10. People Loving People- Still not sure why this was chosen as the first single. The message is certainly admirable but the song is nothing special. If anything, this one sounds underproduced.
11. Send ‘Em on Down the Road- Nice complement to “Mom”, from the perspective of a dad looking back at his childhood and then watching his own kids grow up.
12. Fish- A fishing/ meaning of life song. Didn’t quite work for me, but it’s OK.
13. You Wreck Me- Good melody, but Brooks’ vocal seems off here.
14. Tacoma- The last song on a Garth album means it’s his favorite, it’s mine too. Great vocal, soulful vibe.
Overall, this is a solid album. It shows many of Garth’s influences from Western swing and traditional country to the arena rock of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Another album is planned for late 2015. There’s no denying the staying power of his previous work, but Man Against Machine shows that Brooks is still relevant.