With six albums and numerous headlining tours, Luke Bryan has made his definitive stamp on country music. As one of the more distinctive voices in the genre, Bryan continues to command attention and garner some of the best sales in the industry. Yet, his distinct style and repeated tropes have become tired on his seventh LP, Born Here, Live Here, Die Here. The album is full of charm, personal experience and feel-good boat music. However, as a whole it presents Bryan as reliant on the sounds he’s been producing his entire career. Loyal fans of the artist will enjoy the 10-song record, but anyone expecting something new from the star this time around might find themselves underwhelmed.
Luke Bryan has solidified his position as one of country music’s smoothest talkers with tracks like “Crash My Party” and “I Don’t Want This Night To End,” and this album further cements this. The slow-burning, electric-guitar-driven “What She Wants Tonight” focuses on the it-girl of the bar who’s chosen Bryan as her object of interest for the night. He croons that he “gets to be what she wants tonight,” as the song follows a familiar pattern of leaving the bar, racing home in a truck, and eventually cutting all the lights.
It’s hard not to draw comparisons to his 2015 hit “Kill The Lights.” Later on the album he leans on his tried-and-true drinking song “Too Drunk to Drive,” which, aside from sounding like an acknowledgement of inebriation, is actually about being intoxicated by a woman. It was clever the first time on 2012’s “Drunk On You,” but this time around it feels like the same song, just with a different arrangement. This isn’t to say that the songs aren’t good, they just fail to display development for Luke Bryan as an artist.
Some of the highlights include “For A Boat” and “Build Me A Daddy,” both of which are much more emotional and personal than fans are used to from Luke Bryan. The sonically straightforward “For A Boat” seems to speak to Bryan’s youth, fishing with his father. While he might have been “too broke for a boat,” he acknowledges he eventually realized that he was lucky to have what he had.
“Build Me A Daddy” certainly pulls at the heartstrings while acoustic strumming accompanies the story of a boy who asks a toymaker to build a replica of his father, a soldier overseas. What can sometimes come off as pandering is far from it as Bryan has managed to craft a song that both honors troops and the families they leave behind. Bryan often writes about love, women or partying, yet these two songs add to his relatively small repertoire of deeply personal and poignant matter in a refreshing way.
The second half of the album provides the most room for branching out. “Where Are We Going” sounds distinctly country, but in a way that’s not typical of Bryan’s sound. This track relies on an acoustic fingerpicking pattern and an uptempo kick drum hits while also enlisting the help of Chancie Neal on backup vocals. None of these are common pieces for Luke Bryan and give the song a bluegrass feel. “Down To One” trends in the opposite direction, with a more electronic sound and steady backbeat and keyboards. The “country” comes in on the chorus and bridges but the first minute could be classified as pop if it wasn’t for Bryan’s distinct twang.
Bryan has clearly spent years crafting his sound and has managed to find the formula for his brand of country music. Existing fans will be right at home here in Bryan’s usual charm and instrumental compositions. But, if you were hoping for experimentation on Born Here, Live Here, Die Here, you might want to consider altering your expectations.
Follow writer Piper Westrom at Twitter.com/plwestrom.