By Helen Jerome
If you like your country to bend towards lighter emotions for top-down, shades-on, guns-out summer fare, then this will definitely tickle your fancy.
Nicknamed ‘Wild Bill’, Billy Currington was an early exponent of what evolved into the all-pervasive ‘bro-country’ era that now dominates the airwaves and frequently divides the country music cognoscenti. The colourful character from Georgia was once best known for duetting with Shania Twain on ‘Party For Two’ – and later with Lionel Richie on ‘Just For You’ – who seems to be building his career back up again after slightly dropping off the radar following 2015’s Summer Forever.
Still looking every inch the curly-haired affable guy next door who’s just come home from playing softball, he’s bouncing back here with a seventh studio record, Intuition, some 18 years after his debut album and several hits further down the line.
If you like your country to bend towards lighter emotions for top-down, shades-on, guns-out summer fare, then this will definitely tickle your fancy. For this is not the place to go to for introspection, self-examination and authentic journeys of the soul; once this is acknowledged, its easier to lean into the lite-country pop beats.
‘Lead Me’ is one of the strongest songs here; picked banjo, pure pop vocals and jaunty, slightly Latin flavours underpinning the massively upbeat tune. ‘Get Close’ is a similarly romantic, shimmering pop song full of energy and chemistry, while the echoey ‘Déjà Vu’, the drifting vocals of ‘Just Say’, and the finger-clicking. swirling sweep of ‘Complicated’ map out the singer’s desire to embrace summer sonically and emotionally.
Currington even utilises the sounds of the beach for the foundations of ‘In Love’ to help convey how he’s drunk on summer love and passion. Even more effectively on ‘Lighthouse’, you hear waves crashing against the shore as the song builds into a lighters-in-the-air epic, hope held tight despite the setbacks of a couple drifting apart as rainstorms and turning tides fill the atmosphere as the guitars take off.
Perhaps nodding to the diverse music Currington grew up with, there are nods to some more unexpected influences. ‘Confess’ is all skippy and hoppy, moulding a distinct Europop sound together with more country banjo. At times, it’s almost reminiscent of Daryl Hall and John Oates, which is a definite plus. From the other end of the world, it feels like there’s some Men Down Under Aussie-style fun evoked through closing song ‘Moments’. While he shows he can be laidback and nonchalant in ‘Distraction’, his floating vocals will always build towards yet another power-pop staple.
Where Currington loses his way – particularly with some of the country purists – is when he succumbs to the temptations of autotuned vocals, most typically on the track ‘Words’. While he’s not the only singer to resort to ultra-processed production, these are not high points on this album - leaving Intuition uncertain of it’s place within Currington’s albeit treasured catalogue.