Dustin Lynch certainly looks the part. Going down the list of male artists currently coming out of Nashville, there aren’t too many holding down that classic “I-just-came-in-off-the-ranch” look of Alan Jackson with the more contemporary “backroads-and-ready-to-rock” swagger of Jason Aldean. And yet that combination of traditional and modern is exactly what the 27-year-old from Tullahoma, Tenn. is doing both visually, and more impressively, musically.
On his self-titled debut album, hitting stores on August 21, Dustin offers up a collection blending country roots with the pop/rock influences heard in the genre today. While this isn’t exactly groundbreaking, the fact that he pulls it off so naturally and with an apparent love for both styles is what sets his debut apart.
Dustin’s traditional side is easily recognizable on the epic lead single, “Cowboys and Angels,” which is currently Top 15 at country radio. As a subtle fiddle hovers above acoustic notes and rattling Telecaster guitar, Dustin drops in with a smooth drawl and a wide open, Western feel. My touch is her temptation, her kiss is my salvation / She’s sweet, I’m wild, we’re dangerous, he sings in the dramatic chorus about the complexities that brings them together. Working with producers Brett Beavers (Dierks Bentley) and Luke Wooten (Brad Paisley), the overall sound is crisp and polished, yet instead of being neo-traditional, the take here is slightly different; it’s modern-traditionalist.
On the rock-leaning “Wild In Your Smile,” Dustin’s deliberate melodies in the verse and chorus stand strong among the swift moving instruments. One of the most striking elements, however, is the use of pedal steel. Oftentimes reserved for those tear-jerking heartbreakers, here the classic instrument transforms into an edgy and revolving call during the hook. The racing “She Cranks My Tractor,” which contains a few playful innuendos and a whole lot of energy, runs like an amped-up meeting between George Strait and Chris Young while Dustin sings in a sterling voice, She got a kiss that’ll hit you like a heart attack. And on “Last Lap,” which has a similar feel to Jake Owen’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” Dustin sings of good times cruisin’ the strip while whoa-oh, oh-ohs ring out over heavy electric guitars and banjo.
Dustin is at his best on the unguarded love songs. One of the album’s highlights, the moody “Hurricane,” builds from dramatic piano into a swirling, emotional chorus. That’s the thing about a hurricane, he sings with a smoldering confidence before adding, Get too close and you’re swept away. The bluesy, “Sittin’ Pretty,” details young love with a lived-in feel while Dustin shows off a subtle vocal bounce singing, I was sittin’ pretty cool, country boy lookin’ big city. On “Rock You Sweet,” Dustin sings, If you wanted to dance in your bare feet…I could rock you sweet, before a light chorus captures the carefree moment nicely.
Dustin wrote or co-wrote 10 of the record’s 13 songs, including the intimate album closer, the devotional, “Your Plan.” I’m hangin’ on best as I can / ‘cause I know this whole crazy ride’s in your hands, he sings over fingerpicked acoustic guitar with a vulnerability emphasized by the rest of the project’s confident stance. And herein lies the debut’s most remarkable aspect; while songs like the party anthem “Dancing in the Headlights” give the album its tempo and contemporary sound, it’s tracks like “Your Plan” that give the record its time-honored country soul.
Key Tracks – “Cowboys and Angels,” “Hurricane,” “Wild In Your Smile,” “Your Plan”