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Rarely does a male country singer impress me. With the mainstream clouded with drinking beer and picking up hot girls, occasionally a true musician and storyteller comes along to break the standard. Charlie Worsham shatters any pre-conceived notions on his debut album "Rubberband," a truly interesting and diverse 11-track record. With the lead single "Could It Be" (a pleasant uptempo ditty) currently at Top 20 on radio, he is poised to usher in the new guard of country music that both honors tradition and makes it modern without the need to water it down.
"Rubberband" is a modern retelling of country music. While incorporating a vast collection of characters, it brings traditional storytelling into a contemporary setting. Unlike many of his counterparts, he believes in creating a captivating set, complete with varied tempos and themes. With each passing track, he channels the legends through his pinpoint presentation and heartfelt delivery. Heavily laden with decidedly country instrumentation, Charlie draws significant influences that range from Vince Gill (not inlcuding their stellar "Tools of the Trade" collaboration) to Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Before the Nashville sound took over during the 1950s, there was honky tonk and bluegrass as the forces behind the genre's prominent vocalists. Rooted deep in this understanding, tracks like "Could It Be," "Young To See" and "Trouble Is" showcase his talent as both a player and singer, fully capable of broadening the scope and reach of country music.
Likewise, the album's title track is gem that pushes the envelople. He ventures into darker, more complex textures, focusing his attention on rock and soul. As heartache is oftent the wasteland of devastation, the song laces together driving percussion, groovy guitar licks and magical clicks of tambourine into a surreal, heartbreaking experience. He truly shoots from the heart on this one, folks, crafting a chorus that is equal part artistic and equal part commercially viable (that hook is infectious!).
The electrifyingly simple, "How I Learned to Pray" is another emotional highpoint on the album. As the followup to the title track, it's a stark contrast, weaving a powerful punch of sincerity. It's tender and sweeping, having an almost acoustic feel, a rarity in today's music composition. He speaks from an honest place with conviction, as evidenced by several other album tracks like "You Can't Break What's Broken" and "Someone Like Me." What's remarkable about this album is that every track stands alone on its own merits, and when combined, there is a breathtaking and cohesive statement. Not a piece of the puzzle falls out of place or is misrepresented.
With beer-trucks-parties being the central theme to the male-dominated format, it's refreshing for a newcomer to make such bold statements with his music. He goes against the grain, setting a new bar for everyone else around him. If this album doesn't become the new template, I will lose even more faith in radio and the state of current music.
Other highlights: "Mississippi in July," "Love Don't Die Easy"
Take a listen to "Rubberband" here.