Review: Jerrod Niemann, ‘High Noon’


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High Noon has a few notable moments and many forgettable ones

Jerrod Niemann • High Noon • Sea Gayle / Arista Nashville • US Release Date: March 25, 2014

JerrodNieman-020411-0002After giving country music “the cold shoulder” throughout the first quarter of 2014, I – the Brent Faulkner – finally decided to give country ‘a chance’. Sure in the process, I successfully passed on offerings by Eric Church (The Outsiders) and yet another Spring Break effort from Luke Bryan, but I suppose singer/songwriter Jerrod Niemann was the motivation.  Actually, I’m not incredibly familiar with his music and I wanted to ‘get to know him’ musically. A couple of years back, upon promoting his previous album Free The Music, Niemann was on CBS This Morning, discussing his use of horns in country music – a rarity these days.  So with interest sparked, Niemann received the distinction of being my first… too bad the results weren’t exactly what my ears desired.  To clarify, too much of High Noon is too generic, repetitive, and uninspired.

Space” opens High Noon solidly, but don’t call the mid-tempo cut the ‘second coming’. What is unique about “Space” is that it’s the type of song you prejudge because of its simplistic, broad title.  Ultimately, “Space” ends up being a song about needing “space” and “room to breathe”. The typical countrified sound is employed here, but “Space” also doesn’t completely fall into the box of country characterizations, something that bodes well in its favor. As for its follow-up “Buzz Back Girl” – well, it’s country to the bone if for nothing more than its alcoholic references (“Feels like I’ve been drinking, since early in the morning…”).  Ultimately, the track is about Niemann’s girl causing him to experience the same sensations as beer has on him… It is what it is.  “Buzz Back Girl” definitely fits the country mode, given a co-songwriting credit from country colleague Lee Brice. It isn’t bad, but nor is it great.  It’s tried and true, but not captivatingly so.

If “Buzz Back Girl” was a letdown where booze consumption was concerned, “Drink To That All Night” fills the gap. The lyrics on the verse are sung in a rhythmic, quick-paced undertone.  By the refrain, Niemann essentially has his glass raised and fists in the air: “I can drink to that all night / that’s the stuff I like / that’s the kind of party makes you throw your hands up high…” “Drink To That All Night” isn’t original conceptually, but it is a standout contextually – it’s the country-pop song of sorts.  “I Can’t Give in Anymore” slows the tempo down, attempting to give High Noon a more serious, mid-tempo ballad.  “I Can’t Give in Anymore” has its moments, particularly its emotional chorus (“…I’m tired of the hell that we’re living in / fighting for one, it takes two to win / this time I’m gonna to walk away if things ain’t like they were before / cause I can’t give in anymore”), but it’s not quite a breakthrough or a clear-cut home run. The pieces are in place, if nothing more.

Predictably, “We Know How to Rock” is up-tempo, contrasting the “I Can’t Give in Anymore”.  Like most of High Noon, “We Know How to Rock” receives nothing more than a passing grade, failing to transcend beyond such.  Yes, the production is pleasing to every country listener’s ears, but the song itself is forgettable and not dissimilar from a million of similar country anthems. “Come On, Come On” lacks intellectual spirit, once more clinging to simple things.  In other words, it’s pretty dumb. Sure, Niemann isn’t singing about dumb things, but the song lacks depth and is centered more on its chill vibe and repetitive lyrics.   “Come On, Come On” won’t be winning its songwriters many, if any awards.

Lucky #7” is ‘coincidentally’ track number seven – imagine the thought that went behind that decision.  Unfortunately for “Lucky #7”, it still leaves this listener desiring more.  I mean lines like “How did a seven wind up with an 11” doesn’t incite head nodding, but rather head shaking and rolling of the eyes.  Oh and BTW, Niemann isn’t lying when he sings, “I don’t deserve you baby.” He really doesn’t with those lyrics. Things only get worse on “Donkey”, a ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek number that features Niemann clumsily busting a rhyme. The rap might be forgivable if the chorus were better – and it’s certainly not!  My advices to JN…don’t rap, like ever again. “Day Drinkin’” definitely isn’t a bounce-back track, once more lacking imagination and again relying on repetition.   The stretch from “We Know How To Rock” to “Day Drinkin’” is pretty blasé or pretty rough – depends on how you read into it.

The Real Thing” is best described in basketball terminology – After being ‘one and done’ at trying to score the ball (unable to attain a rebound), finally you bank a shot in.  “The Real Thing” is sort of like a two-point jumper that you aren’t sure if it’s going in, but it gets the friendly bounce.  Whether or not  “The Real JerrodNieman-020411-0001Thing” is memorable in a sea of 2014 country songs, only time will tell. Contextually, it keeps High Noon from totally falling on its butt. After the seriousness though, “Beach Baby” is a reversion of sorts, reminiscent of the chilled-out “Come On, Come On” lacking any semblance of depth.  Perhaps it will appeal to some, but it’s an “I’ll pass” from me.  As for the remainder ofthe trying High Noon, there’s “Refill” (been there, done that) and “She’s Fine” featuring Colt Ford – oh lawd! Enough said… don’t pass go and please don’t collect $2,000!

The verdict for High Noon – forgettable! Even with the more notable cuts selected, High Noon as a whole offers very little incentive to listen for a second time, heaven forbid more than that.  For a country album – specifically the first country album this dude listened to in 2014 (don’t judge me) – High Noon was a bit of a letdown. As with all artists, you win some, you lose some.  This one goes in the loss column…

Favorites:

“Space”; “Drink To That All Night”; “I Can’t Give In Anymore”; “The Real Thing”

Verdict: ★★½

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