Photo courtesy of J Edwards Music
REVIEW: Average Guy by J Edwards (Storm Chaser Music/April 30, 2020)
I received a text asking if I’d like a copy of the new J Edwards album. It was like Christmas Eve to me. Of course I would. I couldn’t wait to hear it. This is a guy with a voice that you can’t back away from. I was so taken by his last album, I was a little concerned that there was no way I would appreciate the new one as much, but I had to at least hear it. I knew at the very least if it was J Edwards singing, I’d probably like it. I wasn’t prepared for what was about to go down when I got it in my earphones.
A little background on the J Edwards story for those that aren’t up to speed. A couple of Christmas Eves ago (really, it was Christmas Eve), for some bizarre reason, I happened to notice a message in our Think Country Facebook in box. It had an unusual salutation which caught my eye. I don’t normally answer our messages, I leave that to the boss, but it was a holiday and I was in kind of a lull, so I opened it. I also don’t normally pay much attention to unsolicited requests to listen to music, but something about this message was calling to me, so I did. I believe there’s a reason for everything that happens and I guess J Edwards was the reason. His wife was the one who wrote that very well-constructed message and she deserves the credit for that part. J, however, deserves the credit for knocking me off my feet with his music! Who was this guy? He wasn’t just good, he was amazing! Within a few days we had an in-person interview and I saw him live and this was during the Christmas holiday rush! That just doesn’t happen for anyone. It happened for J Edwards. (Link to my first interview with J Edwards: https://thinkcountrymusic.com/whats-new/j-edwards-nashvilles-best-kept-secret-not-anymore/)
That was two years ago. Now we’re here, in the middle of a global pandemic, but music isn’t stopping altogether because I have his new album, Average Guy, on my phone. The minute I had it, I started listening. It’s 16 songs. When I saw there were that many, I was really excited. So, how did it pan out? Let me give you a glimpse.
The album opens up with a tune called “Come On In (The Whiskey’s Fine)” (J Edwards, Cory Lee Barker). Now, you might think you’ve heard this one before. There’s an Adam Doleac song that you might get it confused with, but I assure you, they are not the same. Full of the power vocals and bluesy goodness we’ve come to expect from J Edwards, this is one delicious song. Edwards has the most unique, most earth-shaking voice in Nashville. I’d bet my house on that. He could sing the same song a hundred times and improvise it a hundred new ways to make every show a surprise. He’s talented beyond measure. The most interesting thing is you can detect that skill from this very first track. You just know he has that ability.
“Let Her Know” (J Edwards, Roger Hodges) is a ballad that’s all about honesty. Here, the heavy gravel in Edwards’ voice never interferes with him hitting the highest notes, that’s impressive. He’s convincing when he sings about his devotion to his life as a traveling musician and how he needs to be candid with the love of his life about that passion.
“Let her know you’re a slave to the road”
One of the best tracks on this record, one that deserves a lot of volume in the earphones, is “If You Were Mine” (J Edwards, Greg Pratt). Slow, steamy, wishful and so incredibly captivating. Instrumentally enthralling with the longing sounds of a steel guitar weaving in and out, this is a song you can actually feel. The way Edwards delivers the lyrics is so intense, you can’t help but be in the room with these characters.
“You’d feel like we were touching from across the room and you would never have to figure it out, oh if you were mine you would know it by now”
Average Guy is a bit like visiting a carnival, all themed around J Edwards. The main attraction always being Edwards and his unmistakable voice and knack for marvelous storytelling, but the songs being various sideshows you enter never knowing what to expect next. One of those fun surprises is “Rather Be Lonely Here” (J Edwards). The intro takes you right back to a sort of 1970’s-style country song that leads you deeper into a midtempo confession. Not that he’s been cheating or doing anything terrible, he’s just kickin’ back at the local bar with his buddies. He’s spending too much money on the jukebox and quite honestly, being pretty lonely with other people instead of all by himself at home after a breakup. Oddly, this song isn’t depressing at all. You have to hear it to believe it.
Photo courtesy of J Edwards Music
What might be the biggest curveball of the album, comes in the form of a highly radio-friendly number entitled “DuckBlind” (J Edwards). Now, I didn’t even listen to this one without immediately thinking that it sounded like something that should be pitched to country artist Riley Green. I mean, Riley Green is all about ducks and duck hunting. He has a fan group called The Duckblind! Then I listened to the song and I really thought it should be pitched to him if it hadn’t been already. Before I even had the chance to ask, I heard from J Edwards who mentioned to me that “DuckBlind” was cut about a year before by John Schneider. I was glad someone grabbed it anyway. There’s something about this song being sung by J Edwards that really makes it pop though. Let’s just say it’s not all about hunting ducks.
“Come sit in my DuckBlind, we can drink a little homemade wine, ain’t no tellin’ what we might find, might even shoot a duck”
A master storyteller in song with a voice that will make you believe anything he sings, “I Don’t Wanna Know” (J Edwards) is one of those songs that does that. A story of being a fool far too many times. Maybe one you’ve heard before. Lived before? Wait until you hear Edwards tell it. I can’t wait to hear him tell it live. He’s doing his best to say he’s done being a doormat, but even his forceful vocal chords can’t hide shades of weakness in his heart. This is a heartbreaker, but it’s a sturdy one. Even the toughest guy in the house will have to admit this is a damned good song.
“Cause I’d come running back to you like all the other times he’s gone, so if he tells you that he’s leaving, I don’t wanna know”
Photo courtesy of J Edwards Music
On the flip side of the ballad, there’s a little something else for the rough and tumble crowd, most notably the male persuasion. That comes in the form of “Blame Me Too Far Gone” (J Edwards). How much debauchery can one handle all alone at 3 AM lying in bed with earbuds in? About as much as I could imagine if this tune was being played live in a packed venue, and I imagined mayhem! With thoughts of divorce party guests of honor requesting this song, whiskey toasts and general sing-alongs, I could imagine this becoming an anthem. Rather than a guy trying to claw his way out of trouble, beg for forgiveness or once again play the fool in a country song, this time he owns it all and celebrates. That is what makes this song a winner. He just gives up, admits defeat and waves his freak flag high. Another that should be pitched to the highest bidder. This is gold, but for right now, just hearing J Edwards growling out his sins like a drunken Irishman is way too much fun.
“I tried like Hell to keep holdin’ on, blame my memories, blame this bottle, blame me stoned, just blame me too far gone”
He’s been playing this one for some time now, but it still holds water because it’s so good. “Cinderella” (J Edwards) is a J Edwards staple. A clever play on the classic fairy tale with an arrangement that reminds me of an old ragtime song, there’s nothing to dislike here. Glass slippers, pumpkins and bluesy guitar players with thundering singing voices mix together exceedingly well. Who knew?
That crazy carnival we’re tripping around called Average Guy brings us to one big magical tent where auditory illusions run amok. “Somebody’s Got To Lose” (J Edwards) is another brilliant bit of songwriting wrapped around the sad truth that in any new relationship there’s always someone facing an old relationship status. A loser. Someone with a bad hand of cards. I’m telling you, this guy can write a song that will burn. He’s so in tune with the human condition, if you’re alive, chances are, you’ll find a way to relate to almost everything he does, but this particular track made my head spin around. I listened to it a few times, convinced he may have had a group of background singers to give it a choir-like effect. It has a really full, “at church” sound. It was as if some funky chorus of angels arrives to take this downer of a story up a step and the vibe changes enough to really create an interesting song. I was so impressed with the idea. I couldn’t stand it. I had to ask. I thought I was impressed before I asked. As it turns out, that was no group of background vocalists posing as an angelic choir, that was one person. Cricket Davis handled those background vocals alone in the studio. Kudos to her powerhouse pipes and the production team for doing an outstanding job with this song.
No carnival is worth going to without getting a little scared. Nothing’s scarier than having J Edwards throwing verbal weaponry right at your heart. It’s another hard dose of plain talk put to music in “Sticks and Stones” (J Edwards, Vince Alten) and it’s awfully good. We’ve all heard the old saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” As we grow older, we learn that saying is horribly inaccurate. Hurtful words can leave permanent scars on our psyche and our soul that never leave. Nobody blasts that point home better than J Edwards when he talks about it in the lyrics of this one.
“Sycamore switch and an old cane pole, a hard dirt clod and a green pine cone, all revved back gettin’ ready to throw sticks and stones”
“Straight On” (J Edwards) is a song that I believe was written for a live venue. An exquisite, yet simple guitar intro made me instantly love it and it just kept on getting better. Showcasing the crazy range Edwards has, running all over from the lowest lows to the highest highs and never missing a beat, this is one heavy, heavy ballad. If you’re the type that cries when you drink, don’t listen to this after you’ve had too many, that’s a warning. The emotions are flying all over the place. There are some divine instrumental breaks here as well.
“If we ever get lonely and there’s hurt and pain we just can’t work through, you can blame it on me”
Photo courtesy of J Edwards Music
The final track on the record is also the title track, “Average Guy” (J Edwards, Dan Smalley) and I’d be out of my mind not to mention it. It’s another one that could very well be commercially viable, yet there are also elements about it that have to be highlighted. Number one, J Edwards would probably tell you he’s an average guy, even though to the rest of us, he’s far from it. Nobody else I know has a voice like his or can write a song like he can. That puts him in a different category immediately, however, as far as being a regular guy, he’s approachable and friendly, so I’ll say in terms of being a diva or an average guy? Average guy. Definitely. His co-writer, Dan Smalley, is another amazing talent. He recently put out his own EP, If I’m Being Honest, which is doing quite well. So, having Smalley in on this song was a big plus.
“Average Guy” is a simple story about a guy just telling it like it is. He’s not the richest, he’s not the fanciest. He’s just a regular guy, but he’s the best kind he can be and that’s all he has to offer. Sometimes, that’s really the best kind anyway.
“I’m just a plain old, take ya home, forever lovin’ average guy”
Photo courtesy of J Edwards Music
Why buy this record? Every single track is great. For space I didn’t discuss everything, but rest assured, they’re all worth talking about and listening to. I won’t skip any of them, and I am really excited to see these songs played live because if there’s one thing J Edwards excels at, it’s taking his music to the people. This album is a collection of all types of music, blues, old country, top 40-type country, it really is a great big box of surprises. The best thing is it’s all anchored to the same J Edwards sound and style we’ve become accustomed to. That hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s just added a few new tricks to keep us on our toes. If you’re new to J’s world, don’t stop here. Work your way around the internet and find anything you can that he’s done. I found him by a fluke. You’re getting a real, honest-to-goodness piece of advice about him. Take it.
Average Guy Track Listing:
- “Come On In (The Whiskey’s Fine)” (J Edwards, Cory Lee Barker)
- “Let Her Know” (J Edwards, Roger Hodges)
- “Looks Like Never” (J Edwards, Abby Boykin)
- “If You Were Mine” (J Edwards, Greg Pratt)
- “Rather Be Lonely Here” (J Edwards)
- “DuckBlind” (J Edwards)
- “I Don’t Wanna Know” (J Edwards)
- “Blame Me Too Far Gone” (J Edwards)
- “Cinderella” (J Edwards)
- “House On The Corner” (J Edwards)
- “Somebody’s Got To Lose” (J Edwards, Jamie Saylor, Matthew Coles )
- “Baby’s Gone For Good This Time” (J Edwards)
- “Ramblin’ Fever” (J Edwards)
- “Sticks and Stones” (J Edwards, Vince Alten)
- “Straight On” (J Edwards)
- “Average Guy” (J Edwards, Dan Smalley)
J Edwards Website: https://www.jedwardsmusic.net/
* Featured photo courtesy of J Edwards Music