Album Review

Brian Kelley - Tennessee Truth

Brian Kelley finds himself on the frontline with Tennessee Truth as he continues his own transition into solo artist.

Album - Brian Kelley - Tennessee Truth
May 10, 2024 3:12 pm GMT

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Brian Kelley - Tennessee Truth

Label: Big Machine Records

Producer: Dann Huff

Release Date: May 10, 2024

Tracklisting:

1. Acres
2. How We’re Livin'
3. King Ranch
4. Trucks, Ducks, Bucks & Beer
5. Goin’ Places
6. Barefeet Or Boots
7. Dirt Road Date Night
8. 10 O’Clock On The Dock
9. See You Next Summer
10. Doin’ Nothin'
11. Dirt Cheap
12. Kiss My Boots

Transitioning from established group member to successful solo artist has to sit at the top of the “entertainment industry struggles” playbook, along with turning child stars into adult Oscar winners or recording an apology video that doesn’t have the shadow of a well-manicured PR’s hand holding a gun to the subject’s head. Brian Kelley finds himself on the frontline with Tennessee Truth as he continues his own transition into solo artist, releasing his first record since his previous outfit, Florida Georgia Line, officially broke up in 2022.

The title of the album might have you believing that its contents would provide some clarity on the feud between Kelley and former bandmate Tyler Hubbard, or perhaps probe deeper into his ambitions as a solo artist and the type of music he was precluded from making with FGL. These supposed truths do not materialise.

If you’ve seen Kelley live, you’ll know that he’s a generous and capable performer. Sadly without a stage or crowd to charm, the flimsiness of his songs is heard through the impression they fail to leave. Undoubtedly, it’s refreshing to hear a more prominent vocal from Kelley, whose voice has a touch of Blake Shelton if it had managed to cling on to a ledge halfway down rather than falling the full depth of the well. The delivery is enthusiastic but static, though it does give some interesting inflections like the chorus-ending snatches on the beachy ‘Goin Places’ or the tongue-tripping title on the otherwise gentle ‘10 O’Clock on the Dock’.

Lyrically, there is very little to hold on to here, or to distinguish the album from Kelley’s efforts in previous guises. Whether it’s the trite vocal layering on ‘King Ranch’ or lyrics like “You put your Georgia peach on a Florida beach” on ‘Barefoot or Boots’, it’s a never-ending list of tired country music buzzwords – Johnny Cash, Makers Mark, Hank Williams, Moonshine, sundresses, blonde hair, tans, Wranglers and endless namechecking of place names. Across the 12 tracks, we get 11 mentions of Tennessee, 10 of Georgia, 3 of Florida and 1 apiece for Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Carolina, Colorado and Kentucky. Rarely do these mentions have narrative relevance.

There’s nothing drastically wrong with any of these songs. In fact, you may well tap your toes to the twangy ‘Dirt Road Date Night’, or find yourself nodding along as Kelley smartly proclaims “Doing nothing’s doing nothing for me” on the catchy ‘Doin Nothing’. But you’ve heard them all before, and that’s the real Tennessee Truth of it all.

4/10

Brian Kelley’s 2024 project, Tennessee Truth, is available May 10 via Big Machine Records.

For more on Brian Kelley, see below:

Written by Holly Smith
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