Album Review: Big & Rich’s ‘Did It For The Party’
It’s interesting how the music business has evolved over the years. When Big & Rich first launched their career in 2004, the term “cutting edge” was definitely an understatement. The country music industry had never seen anything like John Rich and “Big Kenny” Alphin. Though the musical style was very different, inspired by so many different sounds and genres, their harmonies were as pristine as anything that had come down the Music City pike before or since.
It’s been well over a decade now, and while there are moments on Did It For The Party that are very much in that same high-octane vein of early hits as “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy),” to paraphrase Hank Williams Jr., our rowdy friends have seemed to settle down a little bit – without changing the overall sound of their music.
Perhaps it’s more of a shift within the industry that makes Big & Rich seem different these days. After all, back then the group was sharing musical influences that were the most diverse coming out of Music Row. Nowadays, with acts such as Sam Hunt, Florida Georgia Line, and Chris Lane all pushing the boundaries of the genre as never before, Big & Rich seems a lot more tame – and maybe, in spots, a little more traditional sounding than the norm.
Take a performance such as the rollicking “California,” the set’s first single. There is a definite throwback feel to the song. It makes you want to roll down the window a bit and turn the time machine back to 1979. It’s got a familiar vibe to it, for sure. That same vibe can be attributed to the sing-along feel of “Wake Up Wanting You,” which sounds like it would be right at home on a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu en route to Santa Monica. The track’s harmonies are air-tight, and truth be told, I don’t know if they have ever sounded crisper.
They take the sound into the 1990s a bit with the moody feel of “Smoke In Her Eyes,” about a woman who is flaming hot and on the town – but not to be messed with. Rich’s vocal – one of the most underrated instruments in country music – is particularly effective on this track. Rich also delivers a stunning knock-out punch on the powerful yet simple “My Son.”
His partner in crime has his moments in the sun as well. “Freedom Road” sounds like a cool afternoon jam on the front porch, and Big Kenny dominates it. “Lie, Cheat, Or Steal” is a piece of pure songwriting genius that he had been carrying around for years.
To be fair, the band does push the envelope on performances such as “Congratulations (You’re A Rock Star)” and “Funk In The Country,” but a Big & Rich album wouldn’t be complete without a couple diversions into new musical territory.
Did It For The Party is the perfect representation of what Big & Rich are all about. It has a little something for everyone, but what really sets this particular disc apart is the vocals. Both men are singing as well as they ever have, both separately and together. Pick this album up, and you’re guaranteed to have a “Big & Rich” time… and be a little better for it with some of the deep emotional messages featured throughout the record.