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GAC Album Review: Steve Wariner’s It Ain’t All Bad

GAC Album Review: Steve Wariner's "It Ain't All Bad"

Steve Wariner’s 2013 album, It Ain’t All Bad. Photo by Joe Hardwick, courtesy of Essential Broadcast Media.

On his first vocal album in eight years, Grand Ole Opry member Steve Wariner quickly makes up for lost time to cover subjects ranging from old school country loneliness to the thrill of dropping the hammer in a classic 1940s Ford. Writing or co-writing every song on It Ain’t All Bad, which is available now, Steve emphasizes vocals and story song lyrics as he moves through the new 12-song set.

Steve recorded It Ain’t All Bad over eight months at his home studio just outside of Nashville. Getting behind the dials to produce the project himself, songs like the broken-hearted “What More Do You Want” and ever-present “A Thousand Winds” place the vocals way up front to showcase his voice first. With a gentle delivery that recalls the tender country soul of Vince Gill, Steve shows a natural ease when delivering songs that pull on those heartstrings. “I Want To Be Like You” is a touching song of a father’s love while the exceedingly brave “Don’t Tell Her I’m Not” is a master class in bearing one’s soul. She thinks I’m a hero, he sings completely unguarded yet substantially afraid before adding, don’t tell her I’m not. Though the workingman title track and several other cuts on the album find a silver lining, the project moves through a lot of deeply emotional territory. Here I am and I’m ready to play, he sings on the optimistic blues-rock track “It’s Called A Brand New Day,” but it’s clear he’s also got something to say as well.

It Ain’t All Bad does indeed focus on lyrical content, but the well-known guitar virtuoso can’t help but dig in deep to deliver expansive melodies and musical styles. Along the way, Steve slides into blues and pop on through to country, Texas swing and Chet Atkins-style guitar acrobatics. “’48 Ford,” which makes good on Chet’s trademark thump-thump acoustic guitar pickin’, carries a soft sentiment as he remembers his own father with the lines, He left two tons of memories in the shape of a ’48 Ford. “Whenever I See You” blends flamenco-influenced guitar runs with drum programming, layered harmonies and warm synthesizers while the eco-conscious “Spokes In The Wheel” skips to an easygoing jazz-derived beat. However, the Texas swing “Bluebonnet Memories” just might be the album’s best combination of musical exploration and lyric-driven storytelling. With twin-fiddles and pedal steel supporting the song’s longing, the sterling musicianship of “Bluebonnet Memories” is classically stylish as little lyrical twists like, [I] wake up each day in a Texas state of mind, are clever and well-received.

Steve does an excellent job of combining a love for different musical styles with a straightforward country approach. The swamp-twang of “Voodoo” and The Eagles-esque “Arrows At Airplanes” go in different directions sonically, but strong lyrical descriptions and compelling stories make up the ties that bind. And on It Ain’t All Bad, Steve blends expressive musical works with expert guitar passages and vivid storytelling for a thoughtful and engaging set.

Key Tracks – “Bluebonnet Memories,” “Don’t Tell Her I’m Not,” “It’s Called A Brand New Day,” “’48 Ford”

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