Album Review – Larry Hooper’s ‘No Turning Back’

Here at Country Music Minds we always are trying to find more and more artists to showcase to you, the readers. However, being a two man operation, I think it’s fair to say that we can’t possibly hear or review everything out there (as much as we would love to).

While Country Music Minds isn’t the first to finally get around to Texas based singer/songwriter Larry Hooper, we hope that we aren’t the last. Larry is a family man first and foremost and doesn’t tour extensively, hence why you may haven’t heard of him until now. He’s released three studio albums at this point (including the one that will be talked about later on), going back to 2005 with his first album, Rust.

Indeed, the only reason Country Music Minds came across him was due to a review of his new album, No Turning Back over at Farce The Music. When hearing about the album containing hip-hop beats, Justin Timberlake covers and Star Wars porn parodies, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Mr. Hooper. I knew of course that they were joking but still, weirder things have happened in music these days. Even with that, it left me intrigued to check out the real sound behind No Turning Back.

In a year where most country artists are either breaking down genre lines or clinging tightly to the traditional country sound, No Turning Back finds a happy middle ground between country, rock, and blues. Put it all together and you get some damn good music. You’ll hear sizzling electric guitars on tracks like “Daydreams” and the title track while tracks like “Better Off With Me Gone” and “Fire and Brimstone” are drenched in a swampy sound. Elsewhere, “Barabbas” features some of the best fiddle I’ve heard in a country song all year while tracks like “Words To My Favorite Memory” and “Practice Makes Perfect” are country gold.

It’s interesting to see some of the collaborators on this album, since they boast some of the best talent in Texas-Country. “Barabbas” was co-written with Josh Grider, Jason Eady, and Adam Hood while Courtney Patton helped to co-write “Words To My Favorite Memory” and helps sing alongside Larry on “Practice Makes Perfect”. Meanwhile the track, “Waiting On Your Turn To Talk” was co-written with Larry’s brother Jeromy, the person who this whole album is being dedicated to (Jeromy passed away in March of this year). It’s not the kind of collaborations that overtake Larry’s part on this album because overall, this is definitely all him for the most part, but it’s cool to see some of the other talent on display here as well as include a touching homage to his brother.

Being that the album is titled, No Turning Back, it’s appropriate that some of the tracks on this album deal with the theme of moving forward with ones’ life and letting go of the past. “Cry Me A River” finds a male narrator breaking off ties with an old lover who has come crawling back to him. The best track on this album, “Barabbas” takes on a unique theme of an ex-con who, after being released from prison decides to take advantage of his second chance by living a life of honor. The optimism surrounding this one really makes for an excellent song. Moving on, other tracks like “Mercury Down” and “I Was Wrong” also deal with themes of trying to make the present better so that they can face the future anew. The latter finds our male narrator take on the mature stance that he was the one who screwed everything up in the relationship and does his best to apologize for it. Of course, the title track obviously ties in with the ongoing theme as well.

The tracks that don’t have a direct tie to the overall theme of this album are strong as well. Much like “Barabbas” before it, “Words To My Favorite Memory” takes on an interesting unique theme of our male narrator listening to Merle Haggard’s “My Favorite Memory” as he receives news that his lover is gone, implying that she died somehow. He goes on to state the irony that the words to “My Favorite Memory” were playing as his faded away. With Merle’s recent passing it’s almost surreal to hear this type of song on the album. There’s even tracks laced with humor such as the Courtney Patton duet, “Practice Makes Perfect” as well as the track written with Larry’s brother Jeromy, “Waiting On Your Turn To Talk”.

If I were to nitpick with anything on this album I would say that Larry’s rougher vocal texture may take some time to get used to. Also, while there isn’t a single outright bad song on this album, “Drink My Way To Normal” is a little too unconventional in theme for me.

Overall though this is a rock solid album. Larry’s songwriting is top-notch, giving way to unique themes and solid songwriting to tracks that have familiar themes. I’m ashamed that it took me this long to get around to this album, but I’m glad I did. It’s another solid album on the list of the best in 2016.

Best Tracks: “Barabbas”, “Waiting On Your Turn To Talk”, “Words To My Favorite Memory”

(7/10)

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