The following statement may shock some folks but believe it or not, not everyone is a big fan of country music. Yes, that may sound like explicit sacrilege or blasphemy to those who enjoy their music with a little extra twang, southern hospitality, and of course pedal steel, but honestly, there’s many people who don’t enjoy it. Why exactly is it that some don’t enjoy hearing about sexy tractors and downing a few too many beers? Well there’s your answer Sherlock.
One guy who is changing the country game is former college football player Sam Hunt. No, it’s not that Hunt is eschewing tried and true country themes – that would be plumb foolish on his part. What Hunt is doing is incorporating elements of various musical styles into country music, which makes him sound fresh and appeal to a broader audience. Traditional and veteran country artists definitely aren’t the leaders in country anymore; it’s all about the ‘new guard.’ Hunt definitely represents the aforementioned new guard with nods to pop, R&B, hip-hop, and electronic music.
So… Considering the fact that Sam Hunt isn’t your traditional country artist, does that make him impure or undeserving of the characterizations of country music? The answer is a resounding NO. Hunt may be on the left of center, liberal side of the genre, but he still fits the mold with hip, contemporary adjustments. How? Well my friends just take a listen to his captivating debut album, Montevallo, which was released in Fall 2014. Though it first materialized then, Hunt’s profile has been greatly elevated in 2015, particularly with the popularity of single “Take Your Time.”
“Take Your Time” opens Montevallo with a bang, benefiting from a blend of country, pop, and a dash of urban sensibility. Here, Hunt approaches the verses of the song in a quasi-sung, quasi-spoken fashion that isn’t used that frequently. Sure, it’s not a ‘brand new’ concept to perform a song in such a manner, but few do this these days. On “House Party,” the country styling is in place, but the overall vibe of “House Party” is pop with an underlying urban/hip-hop groove.
“Break Up In A Small Town” has Drake written all over it. How does Drake, a blatant hip-hop artist, ever come anywhere close to country music? Listen to “Break Up In A Small Town” and the marriage works perfectly. Again, Hunt oscillates through singing and speaking, and his sung portions resemble Drake’s mellow rhymes/vocals. Another clear indicator of Drake’s influence – the rhythmic nature of the melodic lines. Follow-up joint “Single For The Summer” is arguably more country-based than “Break Up In A Small Town,” but electronic cues also give this cut a slightly more progressive sound. Hey, it definitely not Alan Jackson folks.
Montevallo has other notable moments, one of which is “Leave The Night On.” It doesn’t stand out like “Take Your Time” which it follows, but it’s not the least bit surprising it was chosen as a single. On the clever wordplay of “Ex To See,” Hunt is drenched in swag, sounding particularly cool and aggressive on the chorus singing, “And he walks in, it all makes sense / suddenly you’re climbing all up next to me, next to me / I ain’t no fool, you rascal you / you don’t want me, you just want your ex to see, ex to see.” On penultimate cut “Raised On It,” Hunt’s opening lyrics are “Snapbacks and Levi jeans / PBR and burnt CDs…” – how can you NOT like this guy?
How much potential does Sam Hunt have to open up country to a whole new crop of listeners? He has a great deal of potential to accomplish this! Having southern charm as well as swag definitely only improves his lot! If you haven’t checked out Montevallo, well you need to get on that, like NOW!