Sound — 7
Hailing from the isle of Britain and known for his work with modern metalcore/hard rock bands Asking Alexandria and We Are Harlot, Danny Worsnop does not seem like a dead ringer for a country superstar. But perhaps the singer's popularity in North America has instilled a bit of an interest in the genre for him. And it's a bit of an interesting shift, as his work with the various bands he's in has gotten progressively more melodic and rooted in a sort of very Americanized style of metal, from his initial Asking Alexandria works in a more "traditional" metalcore sound to incorporating elements of '80s hard rock and metal on "From Death to Destiny" and going full-on with the style in his band We Are Harlot. Working with John Paul White and Hillary Lindsey, some particularly big-name songwriters, and purportedly recorded live in producer Jim Kaufman's living room (unfortunately, at the time of writing this review, I do not have a list of the musicians involved in making the album), this is a very well-pedigreed and well-produced effort.
Now, I expected this, a country album by a big name in current metal, to be nothing but a massive joke, a huge disaster, but the opening track, "Prozac," is actually a really, really nice track. The slow waltz rhythm, the beautiful chord progression, the painful and vulnerable lyrics... this is the kind of thing I like about country. But it all falls apart with the next track, "Mexico." Now, in all likelihood, it's more of a pastiche than a genuine attempt to make a country-rock hit, but it contains nearly every trope associated with the genre I can think of (can Worsnop even get Bud in merry ole' England?) and it's just a painfully cringe-worthy track. Things improve a little with "I Feel Like Shit," which is a hilarious vaudeville-ish country song, though it also contains the album's predominant theme of Danny's struggle with addictions and rehab. "Anyone But Me" is a sort of modern softer country tune, with plenty of pedal steel and electric piano, evoking a kind of Eagles-ish vibe. "High" is acoustic-led and a little darker, with a very pretty-sounding chorus melody.
"I Got Bones" is another sort of upbeat modern country song that will fit just perfectly on modern country radio. "Quite a While" is another kind of pretty song with lyrics dealing with issues regarding faith. "Don't Overdrink It" is a quirky sort of whiskey-soaked classic country hoedown, and could be considered somewhat of a lyrical prequel to "I Feel Like Shit." "I'll Hold On" is another mid-tempo country-rock tune, and it's alright, but nothing spectacular. That's kind of the theme for the last few songs on the album, as by this point all the different cliches of country music have been spent, and these last few tracks, "Midnight Woman," "Same Old Ending" and "The Man," all seem kind of like rehashes. They have some nice moments, like "Midnight Woman"'s rocking chorus, and the sort of Charlie Daniels-ish spoken word on "The Man," which as a whole is actually a pretty good track with a neat little guitar interlude in the middle. But overall, we've kind of gotten the point by these songs.
The performances are definitely good, with all the instrumentalists playing their parts fairly well. And the songwriting is not bad, since the writers involved with the album are Grammy winners and they definitely know how to write popular music, but therein lies some of my problem with this record. It's rife with so many cliche'd moments that when the album does hit a particularly high note, it does tend to get a little overshadowed by just how cliched the whole thing seems. Production-wise, this album sounds just fine, though.
Lyrics — 7
Despite all the cliches, Danny Worsnop's bouts of addiction and rehab have given the man plenty of genuinely worthy experiences for many albums worth of country music. "Prozac" deals with the topic of depression and recovery from worse addictions quite well, and they're actually fairly good lyrics:
"Prozac and coffee black
It's breakfast time again
You and me, recovery
Waiting for it to kick in
We fell in love
Got all screwed up
And held on for dear life
Oh lord we pray
We medicate until we're stabilized"
But then the cliches take over and we get tracks like "Mexico," which only needs mention of a pickup truck to complete the picture. "I Feel Like Shit" is a pretty accurate telling of the issues alcoholics deal with ("Can't find the keys to my damn car/I'm scared to check my credit card/But I made it to my house so it could be worse") and there are other issues besides just drinking and recovery in tracks like "Quite a While," which deals with struggles with faith ("I think it's time I talk to Jesus/Tell him exactly how I feel/But the devil in the bottles/Telling me I never will/Get this voice out of my head/This rope off of my neck/I hope heaven knows I'm running low on faith/And I hate to say I haven't prayed/In quite a while") and "I'll Hold On," which touches on the failing relationships aspect of addiction and recovery ("I'll hold on to your memories/I'll hold on to the love you leave behind/I'll hold on to your beauty and grace/I'll fight through the pain and hold on").
As far as Danny's prowess as a country singer goes, he's actually not bad. He's got a very varied voice, from a gravelly sort of southern drawl to higher pitched singing, and even gets close to some of his raspiness you'd expect to hear in one of his bands when he sings the title of "I Feel Like Shit." As a country singer, Worsnop is not all that bad, and I really have to commend him for his work on this record.
Overall Impression — 7
Aside from a couple of really good songs on this record, I really just felt like this album as a whole was kind of mediocre. In no way does it compare to anything from his bands Asking Alexandria or We Are Harlot, and I don't expect a lot of overlap of fans from solo album to his bands. In a lot of ways, this album seems more like a sort of cash grab or attempt to break into some new market. The only thing I think taking away from that idea is that there does seem to be a lot of honesty in the lyrics on the record, as anyone who looks into Worsnop's life might find. Either way, it does seem a bit of an odd jump, even if it does work on some levels.
But overall, whether this album is a cash grab or an honest attempt to branch out and do something genuine, I feel this album just relies too heavily on a lot of the same tired cliches that are a big part of the reason I'm not a fan of modern country music. Perhaps those who enjoy today's country music much more than I do will find some enjoyment from this record. There are many tracks on this album that are properly meant to be country radio hit singles, and being from a Canadian city myself whose FM radio listening habits are essentially monopolized by the modern country station, I can honestly say these tracks are no different than a lot of country songs I hear on a daily basis on the radio. So if modern country music is your thing, this is definitely worth checking out.
Personally, though, I find the album to be a bit of a mixed bag. I definitely preferred the songs that showed a bit more vulnerability ("Prozac" and "High") and the sort of sillier "classic" country tunes ("I Feel Like Shit" and "Don't Overdrink It"), and the album's closer "The Man" is a pretty decent track as well. But the rest of it... take it or leave it, even if there are some nice moments throughout the record.