Image courtesy of BBR Music Group
REVIEW: Country Things Vol. 2 by Granger Smith (BBR Music Group/November 27, 2020)
On Friday, November 27th, Black Friday 2020, Granger Smith will digitally release Country Things Vol. 2, the second half of his 10th full-length studio album, Country Things. Physical copies will hit store shelves on Monday, November 30th. I had the chance to listen to Vol. 2 so I could share my thoughts on it. I know the one thing everyone will agree on is the album is titled appropriately. I don’t believe there isn’t anything country-related that Smith doesn’t mention somewhere on this album.
Granger Smith has a seriously devout fan base. They’re called the Yee Yee Nation. He has an alter ego, Earl Dibbles Jr., a tobacco-chewin’, beer-drinkin’ good ol’ boy, with a devil-may-care attitude toward life. Smith is a songwriter, performer, husband and father. He has his iron in quite a few fires at any given time. All of that and he somehow manages to maintain his music career while residing in Texas rather than Nashville. It all seems to be working for him so far. So, how does Country Things Vol. 2 stack up against everything before it? Let’s see.
As I mentioned, Country Things Vol. 2 is the continuation of the first half of a previously released record. If you’re a die hard Granger Smith fan, chances are you’re already totally familiar with it. If you haven’t heard it, go check it out. There are some really great tracks to be found there. This review is all about the second half, the songs that are yet to be released.
We’ll begin with “Man Made” (Brett Sheroky, Ian Christian), a number destined to be popular with females, despite its masculine title. Within its 3:14, it talks about things that were created by man, skyscrapers, record players, telephones and radios. Even the footprints on the moon were made by man, but Smith sings “there’s a reason why.”
“All of us boys wanna grow up to make our mamas proud
Find that girl that lifts us up when life gets us down
Behind any guy doin’ anything right there’s a woman’s work at hand
If a man made anything it’s ’cause a woman made that man”
That song is teeming with respect toward women, don’t you think? It’s also easy on the ears. Score one for this album already, and not because I’m a woman either. I don’t go that route. It’s just a good song overall.
“Buy A Boy A Baseball” (Brad Rempel, Justin Ebach, Jon Nite) What kind of brilliance did these three guys pour in their coffee the day they wrote this? The lyrics flow into a storytelling whirlpool of sorts, a “what comes around, goes around”, good karma type of thing. This is what separates country music from all the rest. It slows down the world and gives you life lessons you can use, set to the best music you can buy.
“Buy a boy a baseball, get him outside
Get his hands dirty, take a little time
Give a boy a bible, teach him how to pray
Thank the good lord at the end of the day
Wake him up early, teach him how to work
Spend his own money, show him what its worth
Yeah, he’s gonna know it all, he’ll slip and fall
He’ll pick himself up, amen
Yes sir, yes ma’am
Show him how to be a man
So one of these days he can buy a girl flowers, take her to a show
Treat her like a lady, and maybe down the road
He’ll give the girl a diamond, put it on her hand
Watch her and her mama makin’ all the plans
Get a little house on a little piece of land, and build a little family
So one of these days he can
Yeah, buy a boy a baseball…”
“Anything Like Me” (Granger Smith, Jared Mullins, Daniel Ross, Hunter Phelps) is sonically interesting for such a short song. It’s only 2:50 long, but I noticed it was far better with headphones than without. Its drum presence intensifies as the song progresses, and is so worth enveloping oneself in, even for that short amount of time, grab the headphones for sure. The idea is simple. Little things mean a lot. If you’re anything like Smith, you’ll find good things in places where others may not. It’s a cool little track, which, again, is deceiving. It’s short, but musically intriguing and just when you’re getting into the groove, it has one of those abrupt “I guess that’s it” endings.
“If you’re like me then you might be a little less blacktop, a little more gravel
If you’re like me then you might see an old farmhouse on the hill as a castle
Heaven really ain’t that far
It’s a sunset in a backyard
and a shady porch with a guitar
and a pretty girl singin’ along
Oh, you ain’t gotta have it all to have it good
Oh, no you wouldn’t change a thing even if you could
when the little things mean everything
That’s when you got everything you need
If you’re anything, anything like me”
Finding good stuff in simple things is something that Granger Smith seems to really have a fondness for. This next track, “That’s What Love Looks Like” (Granger Smith, Frank Rogers, Monty Criswell) follows that same theme. Most of us envision love in a quick, instant gratification manner. We think of romance. Couples walking hand-in-hand on a beach. The perfect match on a dating app like Tinder or a TV show like The Bachelor . Let’s all thank country music for reminding us that love comes packaged in an infinite number of ways if we’re paying attention. Let’s specifically thank Granger Smith and his co-writers on this song for a boatload of great examples:
“Yellow lab waitin’ in a gravel driveway”
“Grandma rockin’ a baby on a porch”
“Pink ribbon tattooed above a name”
“Soldier and a beer at a white cross grave”
“Farmer on his knees in the pourin’ down rain”
Absolutely lovely all-around, one of the big winners of the entire record.
Funky, midtempo and straight out of the backwoods, “Where I Get It From” (Josh Thompson, Brandon Day, Cary Barlowe) takes us on a fast tour of the main character’s family tree. He’s letting us know what traits his ancestors have passed down to him. Granddaddy chewed Redman, drank beer and listened to Hank Williams. Mama loved Jesus. That explains some of it. This is a party wrapped up in a three-minute song. If you hold out until about the midpoint, you’ll see what I mean.
“That’s where I get it from
Half sinner, half small town saint
That’s how I grew up, yeah raised up
I am what I am and I ain’t what I ain’t”
For Country Things Vol. 2, there was a favorite, a gold medal winner. In my mind, that went to “6 String Stories” (Granger Smith, John Martin) for a few reasons. Its acoustic intro is exquisite, it has that sparkle that immediately draws you in. Smith’s vocals come in soft. Less than a minute in and I already loved this, then I heard the lyrics. If ever I doubted or discounted Granger Smith as an artist, I took it all back after hearing this one song. Actually, in every track on this record, he shows off his abilities as a singer. He delivers lyrics clearly. There’s never an instance where he can’t be understood, making his stories come to life. That gift might be displayed best in “6 String Stories” where he touches on deeply personal topics such as his engagement, the birth of his son and his father’s death. This is an undeniable track.
“Little moments like that
You can’t freeze frame time and get ’em back
I never did write it down in a diary
but I can paint that scene with a melody
All the smiles, all the scars
Every memory of broken hearts and glory
I tell ’em with my guitar and 6 string stories”
Granger Smith’s alter ego, Earl Dibbles Jr. wasn’t about to miss his chance to come out and play on this second half of Country Stories. “Workaholic” (feat. Earl Dibbles Jr.) (Granger Smith, Jordan Schmidt, Andy Albert, Laura Veltz) has our favorite country boy dedicating this track to “the hard workers out there” and of course, Dibbles considers himself one of them. Kind of. As only he can. You see, he isn’t much for working during the week, it’s the weekend that has him doing hard labor.
“I’m work, work, workin’, workin’ on my tan
Workin’ on a pinch from a Skoal can
Workin’ hard, hardly workin’ at all
Hell, I’m workin’ up a sweat blowin’ up a beachball
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”
It’s all good fun and as far as Earl Dibbles Jr. goes, he’s evolving a bit. Maybe you’ve been following him for a long time and you’ll notice the slight change. If this is your introduction to him, you’ll need to go back to see what may be a little different. I mean, it’s not like he’s trading in his truck for a Prius and wearing Armani suits. Nothing that drastic, not even remotely close.
To emphasize just how much Dibbles has remained true to his country roots, he’s back for a second track on Country Things Vol. 2, with the rocker of the record, “Diesel” (feat. Earl Dibbles Jr.) (Granger Smith, Frank Rogers, Monty Criswell, Derek George, Taylor Phillips). Get ready to bang your heads good ol’ boys and girls, this is one heavy-duty ride! Country rockin’ guitars and pounding drums give this salute to the diesel truck all the power it needs to keep your hair flippin’, your boots stompin’ and your drinks high in the air at your next bonfire.
“Yeah, we love smokin’ that diesel
It screams out freedom like a big bald eagle
Like a rooster on a June bug beetle
Country boys are lead foot lethal
Hallelujah chrome stacks like a steeple on my Yee Yee people
Love smokin’ that diesel”
Yes, the second half of this album was certainly worth the wait. Granger Smith’s goal was to take both volumes and put them together to create a roller coaster ride for his fans and I think he accomplished that. There are highs and lows and everything in between. He cut no corners. He stuck to his objective. He called this album Country Things and that’s what it is. It’s all there for anyone to hear and it doesn’t take some fancy degree or some special insight into the music industry to figure it out. As simple as the country lifestyle itself, the messages are right in the songs. Each one unique in its own way, yet a part of the big picture. It’s country things, lots of ’em. Find a front porch swing and have a listen.
Granger Smith can be found:
*Featured photo courtesy of BBR Music Group