In many ways, It’s All Good is like the first page in the next chapter from the book of Joe Nichols. Just this past January, the 34-year-old Arkansas native released a greatest hits project that included chart-toppers like “Brokenheartsville” and “Gimmie That Girl.” Now with an empty canvas, Joe returns with his eighth studio album, a collection of 10 traditional-leaning tunes that display his natural everyman ease through lighthearted fun and moments of tight introspection.
Joe wastes no time on the front end of It’s All Good, jumping right into the swampy groove of lead single “Take It Off.” Against banjo and lightly distorted guitars, the message is one that whether it’s stress on the job, a bottle cap or clothes over a bikini – they all must go. You got a week-of-worries on your mind/ Go on do whatcha wanna do/ Soak you up a little sunshine, he sings with an easygoing southern drawl. Joe’s laid-back vocal delivery has always been engaging, and things are no different here. “This Ole Boy” (written by the trio of hit songwriters known as the “Peach Pickers,” Dallas Davidson, Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip) features upbeat drums and an accessible fiddle hook, while Joe shows off some serious agility moving through quick lines like, She sweetens my tea and butters my biscuit/ I am who I am and brother she gets it, before slowing up to smoothly add, I ain’t gotta change a thing. [Incidentally, "This Ole Boy" was also recorded by Craig Morgan and is Craig's latest single.]
The record is more “country” than some of its contemporaries, and Joe shines on the more traditional pieces. The title cut “It’s All Good” features twin fiddles and a deep melody over bright production. I don’t get blue, I don’t get mad/ If I’ve learned one thing from the year I’ve had/ It’s even if it all goes bad/ It’s all good, he sings with tight phrasing. Self-examination and introspection are probably most evident on the standout track “Somebody’s Mama,” which takes on the subject of regret. I hope she’d smile if she knew right now/ That I was talkin’ like this/ I bet she’s out there somewhere makin’ somebody happy, Joe sings tenderly, recounting a woman he still loves. However, on “She’s Just Like That,” the object of his affection is right by his side. Over acoustic guitars and pedal steel, he sings with a beautiful simile, She’s pure as rain on Sunday.
Joe enlists some of Music Row’s most accomplished songwriters as Dallas Davidson, David Lee Murphy and Rhett Akins all contribute. The album’s closing song, “How I Wanna Go,” (written by Rivers Rutherford and Tim James) is a peaceful meditation on what is truly important. Recalling George Strait, Joe sings with a soft touch, Now I tell you how I wanna go/ Under a sail with my feet on the rail of a boat/ Takin’ it nice and slow while playing guitar to his wife.
On It’s All Good, Joe re-introduces himself with an album full of intriguing contrasts. Songs like the happy-go-lucky “No Truck, No Boat, No Girl” and the rockin’ “The More I Look” are light and fun in their approach, while others like “I Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” (featuring stirring background harmonies from Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski) burn with an understated intensity. These complexities, matched with Joe’s approachable voice, cut to the essence of the project and help listeners get to know him all over again through his candor and willingness to be a bit introspective.