It’s hard to pinpoint the definition of ‘country’ these days. The lines between Top 40 radio and terrestrial country blurred quite a few years ago. So, when you sit down and listen to Chase Rice’s debut LP Ignite The Night, you can witness what the future of the format could very well entail. As is latest single “Ready Set Roll” proclaims, gone are the times when country was only banjo and steel guitar. These days, the country music umbrella is as diverse as its pop counterpart. In any given hour, you might hear R&B and rock-tinged hits (Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line) right alongside more traditionally sensible offerings (Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves). Or, you might enjoy something that blends all of this into a unique sound. That’d be Chase Rice.
While “Ready Set Roll” is quite polarizing among listeners, the electronic-edged track only scratches the surface of Ignite. As the title suggests, the stalwart 14-track album digs into a vast landscape of influences, styles and boisterous production elements. Sure, Rice is no George Jones or Merle Haggard, but what he does do on this album is supply the future. On “Do It Like This” and “Beach Town,” he demonstrates his ear for funky beats overlaid with delicately placed steel guitar and banjo, hidden just beneath the surface and ultimately injecting a sense of freeness and vibrancy. The latter song is a bit of a sweeping nostalgic, that holds closer to indie-pop than indie-folk but possessing the same textures. “Mmm Girl” and “Beer With The Boys” follow next, similarly structured (both sonically and musically). While they might not do enough to differentiate themselves from many other album cuts, they blast a positive energy, that seems to be missing with most radio hits.
“Carolina Can” arrives nearly smack dap in the middle of the collection. It’s a more sensitive peek into Rice’s innate storytelling abilities. That is often lost on Ignite, where he resorts to party, dirt roads and faded blue jeans far too often. But here is a surprise. As the guy behind the best-selling country song of all time (Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise”), he proves that he can croon with the best of them. The production elements are slick, pinned together with a heartbeat-like rhythm and a pondering attitude. We smell his next hit single!
“We Goin’ Out,” “Gonna Wanna Tonight” and “Look At My Truck” lineup like so many bowling ball pins ready to be knocked down. The middle song is one of the finest of the bunch, ample in a rather unique melodic line that climbs from the basement up to the attic of his register. His phrasing is especially memorable, leading to an arena-sized chorus that’s perfect for concert swaying (with cell phones). “U Turn,” featuring a spoken-word intro, is as far from classic country as Rice gets on Ignite; its hip-hop flavor makes this a standout moment.
“50 Shades Of Crazy” (a cultural reference to the “50 Shades Of Grey” frenzy) and “What’s Your Name” borrow significant hip-hop tendencies, too, while “How She Rolls” is far more rock. This all leads, though, to the album closer, the searing “Jack Daniels and Jesus” (one of the many tracks found on his EP). If critics don’t listen to any of the other album tracks, this one is a must-listen. It’s a piano-driven ballad about going through tough times and coming out on the other side. “Only God knows where my heart is,” he sings on the chorus, on which he doesn’t overdue the delivery or the passion. It’s a supple delivery that’s allowed to live in the lyrics themselves.
Must-Listen Tracks: “Carolina Can,” “Gonna Wanna Tonight,” “Jack Daniels And Jesus”
Image Source: CMA