Billy Crain is a Southern Rock singer/songwriter from Tennessee. His latest effort, entitled 'Family Matters', just dropped. Crain is semi-famous, having played with famous bands like The Allman Brothers, Rossington-Collins Band, ZZ Top and even The Rolling Stones. Southern Rock, of course, is a combination of rock and roll, blues and country rock, with a heavy emphasis on guitars and vocals. Some critics prefer the term "blues rock" over Southern Rock. In the end, it's simple rock and roll with a Southern flavour.
Crain's sound is classic Southern Rock, with overtones of country rock, straight out of the 1980s and early 1990s. He has a distinctive voice that sounds like a hybrid of Jimmy Buffett and Buddy Miller; and many of the songs of 'Family Matters' carry a Buffett/Miller aura. Today's teenagers may or may not like it, as it tends to be a bit "old school." However, listeners over the age of thirty will empathize with Crain's evocative style of music.
'Family Matters' contains 10 tracks. The title is a double entendre, referring to personal events within a family and the old adage that "family comes first," because it's the most vital of relationships. 'Dark Horse', the first track, is a country rock number that dredges up memories of Buddy Miller. The melody is crisp and the chorus brings everything together.
Another country rock tune, called 'True Beauty', might be the flower of the album. The Downhome lyrics speak of the magic of a pretty woman that, along with a genial melody and a scintillating chorus, provides an upbeat memorable tune. Crain's voice does a nice job, imbuing the lyrics with depth and consequence. And the extended snare is a nice touch. Many drummers want to extend the bass drum, but the smart ones, like Charlie Watts et al, extend the snap of the snare to good effect.
'Lucky Penny' is a Jimmy Buffett-like tune, beginning with an Irish lilt, which evolves into a country rocker. The title track doesn't stand out; it's good but not great, primarily because it's repetitious and the melody plods. 'Hurricane Helen', a tune about a powerhouse of a woman named Helen rather than a storm, starts off with a piano and then jumps into a flamboyant 1980's rock melody. Unfortunately, as good as the melody is, the lyrics spoil it. Simply put, the lyrics are puerile. 'Joe Parker', best described as a country/folksong/ballad, is driven by the drums and the piano. A sparkling guitar solo enlivens the melody about two-thirds of the way through. '1928' is a period song dragged down by a melodramatic melody and lyrics that only historians can identify with.
'Family Matters' demonstrates Crain's talents as a singer/songwriter. It's a strong effort. Yet there's a tinge of "golden oldies" about it. It's music from yesterday, not from today. For that reason, its appeal is limited. It's good stuff, it's just a little outdated.
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