Sound — 8
The first thing one notices with Chris Young's new album, "A.M.," is the hard rocking vibe created by more distorted guitar than on his previous efforts. The album opener, a wonderful track called "Aw Naw," is the perfect example of this added touch to Young's extremely traditional sound. Rocking guitars are present throughout, but fear not, seasoned Chris Young fans, the record still contains a few of Young's patented soul-searchers. "Goodbye," one album highlight, is the first example, and at track 4, it fits in very well to offset the rocking vibe created by a good portion of "A.M." I openly admit that I was concerned when I saw Ashley Gorley's name sprinkled into the songwriting credits on quite a few songs, but again, fear not! The pop nonsense of Gorley and a select few other songwriters' most recent radio success is not present on this album. Thankfully, Chris Young's arrangements continue to be extremely traditional. This album, as a whole, is extremely solid from front to back. There are no skip tracks, and it's clear that Chris Young is only going to get better. If I were to compare him to any current artist, it'd be Josh Turner. They're very similar, vocally, and their instrumental arrangements tend to hold true to traditional country. If you yearn for the old days or even the '90s, Chris Young is an artist that at least maintains some aspects of that sound.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics range from fairly good to excellent, depending on the track. The lead single, "Aw Naw," is incredibly catchy and witty, and though it breaks no barriers, it doesn't try to. Young also showcases his vocal chops on that song. Just try singing that chorus along with the song - you likely won't be able to. Young is an excellent songwriter, and an ever better singer, which continues to be the driving force behind his career. There's nothing in the lyrics to detract from the quality of music on this album, so don't worry about any cringe moments, which are far too common in today's country. Perhaps the most surprising track on the album is "Text Me Texas," an obvious tribute to the late Keith Whitley's "Talk to Me Texas." Young, a well documented fan of Keith Whitley, covers many of his songs live. The similarities between the two, most notably on the more serious songs, are hard to miss.
Overall Impression — 8
I'm beyond impressed with this album. At the same time, I do hope that Young continues to co-write a majority of the songs on his albums (I believe he co-wrote 6 tunes, this time around). His songwriting is rather impressive, in my opinion, and I hope he never loses that edge. "A.M." is an album that does a good job of balancing upbeat songs with soul-reachers. "Aw Naw" is a fantastic upbeat song, and is easily an album highlight, while "Goodbye" and "Forgivenes" are some of the better sad songs of his career. Though he may never record a song that tops the wonderful "The Man I Want to Be," I applaud Young for continuing to write/record slower, serious songs that outshine their peers on modern country radio. Perhaps my favorite songs on the album are the mid tempo "Who I Am With You" and "Lonely Eyes," which drove home the concept of balance, for me. Young almost always has a single song on his already excellent albums that stands out from the pack, and with "Who I Am With You," he offers the perspective of a man grateful for his lover. It could be seen as a bid melodramatic, but Young's vocal performance absolutely owns each conveyed emotion. At the very least, Chris Young is a must-have for country fans. Not only is he the best vocalist you'll hear in today's market, he's also one of the best songwriters on the popular waves. To me, he's the Wade Bowen of Nashville country. A fantastic vocalist, songwriter, and performer. Don't miss this album, and if you like it as much as I do, don't fear looking back through his discography. It's all good, and "A.M." holds true to tradition.