Album Review : Granger Smith – Country Things, Vol. 1 & 2

Review by Peter Coates –

Volumes 1 & 2
BBR Music Group

Granger Smith must be one of the nicest guys I have ever met in the industry, when we met him a couple of years ago on his trip Down Under – and is clearly much more than just another country singer.

He and wife Amber then suffered every parent’s nightmare when their youngest son River passed away in a drowning incident at their home in June 2019 – one can only imagine the impact on the family.

Over the past 12 months Granger has been working on his 10th studio album, and Country Things has been released in two parts, and includes a couple of collaborations with alter-ego Earl Dibbles Jr which are always good value, and looks to share their country state of mind!

The album is all about the things that money and politics and status can’t buy. The full-length album is meant to be listened to like a rollercoaster ride. It has all the highs and lows, is personal, and, in the end, should leave the listener satisfied, and ultimately be something of a watershed for Granger, marking the start of the next musical chapter.

Volume 1 opens up with the title track Country Things as a classical old-time feel-good number, with a fiddle, guitar-picking and lap steel all adding to the sensation of something really warm and positive – co-written by BK from Florida Georgia Line.  This stems in part from the whole COVID-19 situation with the sense of family being drawn back into those important priorities.

Hate You Like I love You has a bit more of a modern country ballad sound to it, with lush production and bittersweet lyrics, while I Kill Spiders is another big-sounding ballad, with a special message of fatherly pride to daughter London based around the child-like terror of a spider in bed.   The first single was That’s Why I Love Dirt Roads, and has that modern edge to the country feel, catchy as anything with a glorious chorus bringing a big-sky feel to the number – all about how dirt roads are for reflection as well as driving on!

Mexico opens up like another modern country ballad, and then explodes into a soaring guitar-driven anthem which has the hairs up on the back of my neck from the passion and emotion which oozes from the grooves.  There is nothing particularly original here, think Tequila from Dan & Shay and you will get the picture, but there is some wonderful delicate guitar-work at the close.  Current fave on this volume is the heavier country-rock standard Chevys, Hemis, Yotas and Fords which has a tasty little bluegrass guitar-lick in the background and some good-time riffing and crisp drumming which sees the band rock out like Aldean or Brantley would do.  

Where some of Granger’s work is solid but unsurprising, there is nothing ordinary about Heroes, a celebration of the real people in the world, the unsung heroes of society, from teachers, farmers and nurses to single mums and the first responders, and this one really digs deep and stirs up the emotion in the listener without ever being kitschy or cheesy.

I love Earl Dibbles Jr and most of what he has brought to the party, but the closer Country & Ya Know It which basically takes If Your happy & You Know It and changes the words, is a bit disappointing – would have worked better just to throw one chorus into the song rather than drag it out multiple times.  It will of course be a cracking song at all Country festival shows!

Granger Smith
Volume 2 opens with another gentle ballad, Man Made, which flips the concept to reflect that while men may be responsible for making the world, the men have been made by the women of the world.  The same vibe runs through the lyrics of Buy A Boy A Baseball, such a positive life lesson that one feels will be Granger’s approach to parenting – the track swings along with a terrific melody, and leaves such a sweet taste behind it.

There is another feel-good life lesson in Anything Like Me which features a huge drum sound and some soaring harmonies, before That’s What Love looks Like, which again gives a sense of the sorts of things that Granger has been drawn back to in the past 2 years, with some meaningful words paired with an honest backing track that provides the perfect combination to deliver the message of love coming to us in a myriad of different ways.

A funked-up party anthem gives us a brief history of the Smith family in Where I Get It From, and there is a dirty southern guitar sound that drives the riff while the backing band and drums bring the noise – very Luke Bryan or Dustin Lynch, and great fun all round.  6 String Stories has a delicate acoustic guitar intro and some soft double-tracked vocals which highlight the quality of Granger’s vocal delivery as well as his (and his co-writers) lyrics – it has a real feel of the classic Dirt Road Diary country classic, filled with homespun emotion and raw passion of memories, good and bad!  Yet again Granger drags the listener into his world and touches the soul in ways that can’t fail to generate a response.

The last two tracks feature our good buddy Earl Dibbles Jr and there is a calypso feel to Workaholic which bounces along as Earl explains just how hard he is working…..”Break, break, break, breakin’ my back, Breakin’ out the cooler with the six-pack, Breakin’ line on the Creekside, Puttin’ in overtime, I’m a workaholic”.

There have been a few solid rockers in the past albums, and Diesel is the pick of the bunch – featuring the usual spoken intro before the guitars crank up and it all gets loud – big guitars, big drums, still undeniably country, but you can see the barbed-wire tattoo and the chewing tobacco through it all.  A great little guitar solo, some cracking riffs, all packed into a 3 minute classic helping to end the record with a real Yee Yee punch!

Earl Dibbles Jr interviews Granger: 

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