Brantley Gilbert - Just As I Am (Album Review)

I've always been kind of lukewarm with Brantley Gilbert. I've always liked some of his music. I've also been skeptical of some of it and honestly his "image" can at times feel less than authentic. With that being said I've actually really been looking forward to his new album Just As I Am. It's crept up to become one of my more anticipated country releases this year.

On Gilbert's third album, Just As I Am, he showcases probably his best set of songs as a whole in terms of sound and production. I feel like Halfway To Heaven was a bridge between Gilbert's debut album Modern Day Prodigal Son and this new album Just As I Am. Just As I Am feels like it takes elements of both of those albums and presents them to the best of his ability. It's a nice hard edged, mainstream radio country album. I can't help but enjoy a lot of the songs while understanding their mainstream reach, want, and appeal. Gilbert had a hand in writing or co-writing the entire album.

I can't help but enjoy Gilbert's sound, which is basically light rock meets country. It's nothing new and we've heard mainstream country artists with similar sounds before. Lyrics about your hometown, some rock acts you like, talking about women in daisy dukes, working man (or woman) themes like punching clocks and cashing checks, etc... You know the stuff. We also hear artists like Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Toby Keith, etc... sing about these topics on every other song they release. Gilbert does the sound pretty good though. His vocals might sound the best they've sounded in terms of production and overall ability than they have on any of his albums. The guitar parts on this album sound really good and they feel like the backbone of the album. Production and mixing wise everything is spot on and Gilbert achieves the sound he's going for at about maximum capacity.

As far as image, I feel about the same way about Gilbert as I do about Church. The image says outsider/outlaw, but it feels a little more like the cool guy at the table with a Guns'N'Roses shirt, a few tattoos, and a few rings under his letterman's jacket. I mean this is a major label album being marketed to a major label audience. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but let's not kid ourselves as this is a far stretch from something like Hank III an artist who I feel like blends country and rock music pretty honestly.

Gilbert's new album is sure to succeed with the audience he's selling it to and I'm sure it will help him become a bigger name in country music. Overall it succeeds in being a pretty good mainstream country album. This year has been a good year for mainstream country with both Gilbert and Eric Church having released pretty good albums and having really flexed their muscles as big deals in mainstream country.

So what are my final thoughts personally on my enjoyment of the album. Do I like? Love it? Despise it? I end up actually really enjoying the music to a pretty good extent. Gilbert keeps me entertained on this album. The songs are really well written. Lyrically it feels contrived to some degree but it's definitely catchy and sing-a-long-able. I definitely want to, and to a degree do, despise Gilbert's overall image and lyrical content because it doesn't feel authentic to me. That doesn't mean it isn't. I don't personally know and have never had one single communication with him. I'm just talking about the imagery and lyrical content and the way I perceive it  based on it at face value. It could be that Gilbert himself is more authentic than an artist like Jason Aldean who has  a similar image and sing songs Gilbert wrote for. I'd say take this for what it. It’s mainstream country with a light rock image. After you accept that, the album as a whole is actually pretty good for what it is. I enjoy a lot about it. I still think I like Eric Church's new album slightly better, but there is no denying Gilbert's Just As I Am is a pretty solid album.

No comments: