By Mark Hagen
In the age of streaming, Kip Moore's fifth studio album is an old-fashioned concept album about a country singer looking for love.
1. Damn Love
2. Kinda Bar
3. Neon Blue
4. The Guitar Slinger
5. Heart On Fire
6. Another Night In Knoxville
7. Silver And Gold
8. Peace & Love
9. Sometimes She Stays
10. Some Things
11. One Heartbeat (Featuring Ashley McBryde)
12. Mr. Simple
13. Micky’s Bar
Sometimes it depends on how you listen to things, doesn’t it?
On a lot of levels, this is far and away the best album of Kip Moore’s career; blending the rockier Springsteen-esque end of his sound with a delicately spacious electronic sheen, creating a compellingly crisp sonic landscape for the singer to explore across 13 songs that, taken individually - and in stretches collectively – are truly great in and of themselves.
But in this age of streaming, when Morgan Wallen, Zach Bryan et al can throw out dozens of songs at a time - because that happens to be how many they’ve got to hand - and Caitlyn Smith can craft a new (brilliant) album by adding six songs to one that already exists, how do you approach something like this? It’s essentially an old-fashioned concept album about a country singer looking for love and the push and pull between home and the road.
If you treat it like a playlist and put it on shuffle, it sounds fantastic, but you lose the gut punch of the loose narrative that holds this baker’s dozen together. Play it through beginning to end and it sags in the middle, perhaps needing the break to fully appreciate the emotional heft the last third of the album delivers in spades.
That kicks in with ‘Sometimes She Stays’ - a beautifully observed song that might well be Moore’s finest ever – and concludes three tracks later with the shock ending ‘Micky’s Bar’that runs it very close indeed. Add in a duet with Ashley McBryde on ‘One Heartbeat’, ‘Mr Simple’ and ‘Some Things’(the latter perhaps the most country thing on the whole album) and you have a peerless group of songs, immaculately realised by Moore and co-producer Jaren Johnston of the Cadillac Three.
The problem with Damn Love – if this actually is a problem, and opinions may well differ - is that by setting it up as a song cycle, it highlights the fact that there are slightly too many songs about the life of a travelling musician, with all the problems and regrets that that lifestyle drags up.
Country music – hell just music – is at its best when it talks about the everyday, the universal and the commonplace.
Damn Love has this in Excelsis at its conclusion, but the glory of that achievement is slightly undercut by the number of times Kip Moore is just singing about being Kip Moore.
Kip Moore's 2023 album, DAMN LOVE, is released April 28 via Snakefarm Records (UK) and MCA Nashville (ROW). You can purchase the record from one of Holler's selected partners below:
For more country albums released in 2023 and their release dates, head here.
For more Kip Moore, see below: