Dustin Lynch is the underrated hit maker. Some would be surprised to hear that he’s had seven country radio number ones, and 1.6 billion total career streams. He’s certainly consistent, though somehow lacks the song writing prowess of Thomas Rhett or the distinctive vocal tones of Chris Young. But on the 17th January, Lynch will release his fourth studio album, ‘Tullahoma’, and there’s lots to be excited about.
It’s a grower. On first listen there’s nothing particularly deep, dynamic or different from his previous album ‘Current Mood’. But Lynch doesn’t get big radio airplay by being controversial or breaking boundaries. He gets it by cutting mind grabbingly catchy songs, and many of these tracks are going to stick.
Five of the songs on the album were pre-released, including the opening ‘Momma’s House’, which sets the tone: a blend of youth and relationships set in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Lynch’s hometown itself is an endearing character on the album, featuring on most tracks. ‘Little Town Livin’’ takes on a slight R&B vibe, with some smile inducing images of youth: “Key on the tree, you know the place / last one in, don’t forget the gate”.
The best songs are the ones you haven’t yet heard. ‘Old Country Song’ is the stand out track on the album; it’s a belt-it-out, dance-round-the-kitchen, Friday night, winner. On ‘Thinking ‘Bout You’ Lynch is joined by Lauren Alaina. Fast becoming a go-to duet buddy, Alaina’s vocal alongside Lynch’s creates a rich bed of melting sound.
‘Country Star’ is a more lyrically interesting song, with double meaning in the title (singing star/ star in the sky, get it?), and the track is one of six that Lynch has co-written on the album. Lynch penned ‘Country Star’ with Brian Kelley, Corey Crowder and Jordan Schmidt. Crowder is of course best known for his work with Chris Young, and his presence on this album reflects the direction that Lynch is taking his music in. There’s no doubting that Lynch is firmly in the pop country camp, a dirt road away from the days of ‘She Cranks My Tractor’ on his first album. Don’t worry, he’s still firmly holding onto the trademark cowboy hat though.
Praise has to go to the impressive list of songwriters on ‘Tullahoma’. As well as the poignant presence of the late busbee, a co-writer on ‘Workin’ On You’, other writers include Rhett Akins (‘Workin’ On You’, ‘Dirt Road’, ‘Little Town Livin’’) and Luke Laird (‘The World Ain’t Yours and Mine’). But it’s an album that simply wouldn’t be plausible or authentic without a significant presence of Lynch-penned songs, given the Tullahoma hometown concept, and if anything, it would have added to the album to hear more of Lynch the writer as well as Lynch the singer.
There are some songs that are replaceable. Yes, ‘Good Girl’ made country airplay number 1 so can claim hit status, but it’s nothing that’s going to grow Lynch’s fan base, with cliché lyrics: “I got myself a good girl, still can’t believe I found you, can’t imagine life without you”. ‘Red Dirt, Blue Eyes’ is also full of overused imagery of sun tans, moonlight and kissing a thousand times, which of course, we’ve all heard a thousand times before.
If there’s one thing that Lynch fans can be certain of though, it’s that his live performances will make these songs sound even better. UK fans who managed to catch him at Country2Country in 2019 saw the strength of his live performance, engaging enough to stand out alongside more seasoned acts. So it can only be a good thing that he’s taking this out on the road on the 30th January, with his headlining 15-city Stay Country Tour, kicking off in Detroit. He’ll then be hitting the summer festival circuit, with appearances that include Stagecoach and Country Thunder.
‘Tullahoma’ isn’t ground breaking, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s radio ready and we’re going to hear it a lot. It’ll leave you feeling like you’ve had a couple of beers and a pretty enjoyable road trip to Tennessee. Tullahoma will be proud.
1. Momma’s House (Dylan Schneider, Michael Lotten, Rodney Clawson, Justin Wilson)
2. Dirt Road (Rhett Akins, Ben Hayslip, David Garcia)
3. Thinking ’Bout You feat. Lauren Alaina (Dustin Lynch, Andy Albert, Hunter Phelps, Will Weatherly)
4. Ridin’ Roads (Dustin Lynch, Ashley Gorley, Zach Crowell)
5. Old Country Song (Josh Miller, Bryan Simpson, Josh Jenkins)
6. The World Ain’t Yours and Mine (Matt Ramsey, Luke Laird, Rodney Clawson)
7. Country Star (Dustin Lynch, Brian Kelley, Corey Crowder, Jordan Schmidt)
8. Workin’ On You (busbee, Ashley Gorley, Rhett Akins)
9. Little Town Livin’ (Dustin Lynch, Ben Hayslip, Zach Crowell, Rhett Akins)
10. Red Dirt, Blue Eyes (Dustin Lynch, Kyle Fishman, Dallas Davidson)
11. Good Girl (Dustin Lynch, Justin Ebach, Andy Albert)