Remember when I said you’re damned if you and damned if you don’t when it comes to liking certain music (Oh look, I literally said it just a couple days ago…)? Unlike Mr. Brad Paisley, I can’t relate it necessarily to Charlie Worsham, but I can relate it to his new album, The Beginning Of Things. If I thought I saw eclectic responses to Love & War, the responses to this album blow it away (again, in terms of variety).
I’ll be honest, I’ve been digging the hell out of this record, and I’ve held off this piece because I’ve been trying to figure out why exactly. I just do. I mean, I’ll agree with the people who don’t like this album on two things. We’ll get to one later on, but I’ll also agree it’s not quite as strong as his debut, Rubberband.
Then again, this is definitely a very different album for Charlie, even if the heart of it is still there. Charlie caught a bad break trying to rise up in 2013 when country music was a hellhole (well, more of a hellhole), and as such, we hadn’t heard of him awhile, with “Want Me Too” being his last single and a whole album full of great songs to tide us over.
But those days are gone, and everyone has moved on – including Charlie. I’m not quite sure what prompted the change in sound, but I dig it. I do think this album shows Charlie’s personality and charisma a little bit more though, with tracks like the odd opener “Pants”, “Take Me Drunk”, and “Southern By The Grace Of God” showing off a sort of playfulness that sort of remained latent on his debut album. I like “Southern” in particular a hell of a lot. I mean let’s face it, Charlie isn’t really what you’d consider traditional country. He’s doing something different from what the rest of the mainstream is doing, but it’s more along the lines of say, Brothers Osborne and Eric Church rather than Jon Pardi and Midland. I take a line such as “you can’t out-country me” to be a subtle jab at those who might discount his new sound or furthermore discount his place in the genre. Plus, that guitar solo at the end is chaotic and fun as hell.
What I also like about the album is how eclectic it sounds. You get the whole soul vibe with tracks like “Call You Up”, “Cut Your Groove”, and “Please People Please”. Meanwhile, a track like “Old Time’s Sake” sounds like a true blue country song (seriously, the pedal steel and strings in that song are absolutely gorgeous). “Only Way To Fly” and “I-55” both sound like they could be radio hits while also feeling very fresh. The guitar solo in “Only Way To Fly” is especially pleasing (even if I would have let it ride a little longer).
Of course, the lyrical content is really what I want to cut at. You can tell that Charlie is trying to be a little personal on this record as evidenced by the frustration of “Please People Please” or the “be yourself” anthems like “Only Way To Fly” and “Cut Your Groove”. I like the latter track in particular a lot for taking the whole worn down “road less traveled” theme and framing the song around a lot of musical references. It reminds me of Eric Church’s “Record Year” in that small aspect.
Songs such as “Old Time’s Sake” and the title track may be the best tracks of Worsham’s career, with the former showing a strong sense of maturity in its framing with the latter showcasing an extremely strong story. Of course, I’m not surprised given the writers. Abe Stoklasa wrote one of my favorite songs last year with Charles Kelley’s “Leaving Nashville”. I also just really love the melody and production of this one as well. It’s definitely going to be one of my favorites of the year.
Now, I don’t love all of it. “I Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” gets pretty annoying with those “ahs” in the chorus, and look, if I agreed with people on one aspect of this album, I’ll agree on another – “Birthday Suit”. I get the entire point of song – to not actually strip down to your birthday suit but rather to let go of life’s worries but it’s just so….weird. From the production to the lyrics – everything.
I will also add that while Charlie’s personality does add to a song like “Lawn Chair Don’t Care”, it also feels somewhat forced lyrically, as if the label wanted to throw it on the album “just in case” this ended up working well with radio (and in turn, “Cut Your Groove” so far is getting the short end of the stick. Screw you country radio). Other than that, I’m not sure what else to add. Again, I found this to be incredibly enjoyable.
OVERALL ASSESSMENT: I don’t know what else to say other than I really enjoyed this album. I just love how fresh it feels as a whole with the production, and I think Charlie’s strong lyricism has really stayed consistent. I still don’t like “Birthday Suit” AT ALL, but other than that, it’s a strong album. As for the grade, I’m thinking an 8/10. This record won’t be for everyone, as evidenced by comments I’ve seen from lots of people thus far, but it’s for me.
Best Tracks: “The Beginning Of Things”, “Only Way To Fly”, “Take Me Drunk”, “Old Time’s Sake”, “Cut Your Groove”
Worst Track: “Birthday Suit”