Season 10 “American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery is already showing signs of having a very healthy career at country radio. His first single, “I Love You This Big,” was a top 15 radio hit, and peppy, lightweight “The Trouble With Girls” is shaping up as a nice follow-up.
If you’re fans of those two songs, you’ll love his full debut, “Clear As Day,” out Oct. 4.
McCreery gathered tunes from many of Nashville’s finest songwriters here. While every tune is well crafted, like the first two singles, they are so generic in their embrace of a small town America and country “values” that the album could have come with a calendar from the ‘50s and a slice of apple pie. There’s even a mom who thanks God for “dirty dishes.” Calling June Cleaver.
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In this continuous salute to all things country, nobody eats until you say amen, trucks are perpetually mud splashed, girls wait for boys to make the first move, and it’s a high compliment to say “I was wanting to kiss her like an old bullfrog.” Huh? I grew up in Raleigh, one town over from McCreery’s hometown of Garner, and there was nothing about this album that reminded me of my formative years. And, trust me, the area was lot more rural when I was growing up than it was during McCreery’s era.
On the plus side, McCreery has a voice meant for country. It’s deep, resonant, and for someone so young, he also had a good command of nuance. Produced by Mark Bright, the sound is so clean and clear, if it were a floor, you could eat off it. The session musicians deliver note-perfect, tasteful solos. There is no attempt whatsoever to make any song here palatable for a country crossover to pop — and that is a compliment.
For the most part, Bright picked songs that are age appropriate for the still-teen McCreery, although he can’t really carry off the emotional heft needed for “Back on the Ground,” a tune about someone who’s been kicked around a bit by life who still finds solace at his mom’s table. (Although we’re sure that “American Idol” tour was no picnic). To that end, he smartly stays away from songs about getting one’s heart stomped on. Musically, McCreery seems more comfortable on the many mid-tempo tracks, though he capably handles the uptempo, toe-tapper “You Make That Look Good” and the sprightly “Walk in the Country,” originally co-written and recorded by Keith Urban when he was in The Ranch.
As he matures, there will be more life experiences for McCreery to lean into, although that isn’t always a function of age. For example, fellow former “Idol “Allison Iraheta, who was a year or two younger than McCreery during her tenure on the show, put out an album that really hit emotional high points that felt real and with very little artifice.
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