It used to be that country radio didn't split between its roots and its desire to keep soccer moms happy. A pop tune with a pedal steel is still a pop tune - just ask the Carpenters. These days we can often forget we are listening to a country station since it might be an hour or more before you'll hear songs that you'd find on a honky tonk jukebox.
David Adam Byrnes, a young kid from Sherwood, Arkansas must have been listening to good old country from when he was in diapers because he's crafted an album that sounds like it could have been cut decades ago. He's only 23, but Byrnes is in the mold of the great modern troubadours like George Strait with a vocal nod towards Merle Haggard. On Premium Country, he comes armed with the right amount twang in his voice and the right amount laughter and tears in his songs.
Rob Rappaport, the head of Byrnes label and the producer of Premium Country tells the story of discovering him playing clubs in Nashville:
I was struck by the mere sound of David’s voice. He has the same vocal signature as the ‘80s class of hit makers–guys like Mark Chesnutt and Tracy Lawrence; a vocal chameleon, he is hauntingly reminiscent of Keith Whitley.
Byrnes also co-wrote 10 of the 14 tunes so he doesn't have to shift through schlock to find his next cut.
Premium Country has all the bases covered with rollicking honky tonkers ("Sweet Distraction" "One Too Many Times" "My Kind Of Crowd" "The Jukebox, the Bottle, and Me) and a nice set of tear in your beer weepers ("Maybe She Won't Go" "That's What I Tell Myself" "More Afraid of Livin'" and "When I'm Done Missing You"). Anyone who doesn't mind a little sawdust on the dance floor and drinking beer from a bottle will feel right at home kicking back to these tunes.
Byrnes also throws in a few songs that show some adventurousness. "Long Gone" has a nice bluesy feel to it, and "Any Other Way" and "When I Get There" are both anthems, the first leans towards rock and the latter towards country. If anything, Premium Country is almost too loaded. It's almost like he has released not only his debut, but half of his follow up as well.
Every couple of decades or so, Nashville remembers where it came from and starts to again discover artists with a traditional bent who understand that country music is still workingman's music. With Jamey Johnson going strong and youngsters like David Adam Byrnes only a couple of years north of the legal drinking age, it gives a little more hope that there might a new dawn in Music City.
- Jim Markel
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