Usually country music fans turn to the thriving Texas country music scene when they’re in need of a break from the Nashville Sound. Many artists even wear it as a badge of honor, but it’s different with Sam Riggs.
As showcased on his new album, Breathless, he’s not afraid to incorporate some of the trends that have dominated the mainstream country airwaves for the past several years. But he does it right. The outside influence isn’t overbearing in the songs. It’s sprinkled in and the album benefits from it.
The first moment that makes your eyes light up is the inclusion of a drum line at the end of “The Lucky Ones,” the album’s lead single. In the song, Riggs celebrates a way of life many are accustomed to in small towns all across the country. His family didn’t have a lot of money so he had to work for everything, and him and his friends had to make their own fun. It wasn’t easy, but it made him into the man he is today. That drum line is a call back to those high school days he remembers so fondly.
There’s also “Wake the Dead,” which is one of the most exciting songs on the record. Merely seconds into the song and you’ve got the urge to hit the dance floor. It includes Riggs doing a little rapping on the bridge as well as an EDM-type pulse beat that leads into the chorus every time.
The songwriting level is there, too. One of the standouts is “Gravity” which depicts the metaphorical gravitational pull a small town can have on everyone born there. While the subject matter has been touched on so many times it could have its own box set, Riggs offers a fresh take on trying to leave a place that ends up holding so many back.
“Secondhand Smoke” does a stellar job of comparing the process of getting over a former lover to someone trying to kick their cancer stick habit. It’s actually a good depiction of the struggles many go through when trying to break free of a habit affecting their well-being.
Make no mistake, Sam Riggs is a country music artist and the sounds every country fan loves aren’t hard to spot. But they’re not just thrown in there to make the song “country.” It does what it needs to serve the song and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
This album visits many common themes in country music, but the way its delivered gives it a mass appeal. It respects its country roots while welcoming outside influence without allowing them to takeover. Also, it’s not an album that can be experienced in one sitting thanks to all its layers. It’s the kind of album that makes one breathe a sigh of relief knowing the future of country music is in good hands.