Album Review: Billy Ray Cyrus’ ‘Thin Line’

It’s hard to believe, but next year will mark the silver anniversary of Billy Ray Cyrus’ classic hit “Achy Breaky Heart.” Though that song remains the biggest number in his catalog all of these years later, Cyrus has still managed to give the format some additional fine moments over the years. Songs like “In The Heart Of A Woman,” “Busy Man,” and “It’s All The Same To Me” have kept Cyrus’s name afloat as a recording artist, and his acting on such shows as Doc and Hannah Montana have also added to his exposure.

And, the beat goes on……His leading performance in CMT’s Still The King has impressed fans and critics alike, and the music – what got everything started in the first place for the Kentucky native – is still very much alive on this collection which balances many of the reasons that the entertainer was first influenced to become a performer – as well as some of the finest original material he has recorded in some time.

Photo by Melanie Swerdan

Photo by Melanie Swerdan

First, let’s dissect the classics. Cyrus adds his touch to several of the songs that were among his first musical memories. There’s a weariness to Kristofferson’s “Lovin Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” that nobody has done quite as well since Tompall and the Glaser Brothers did in the early 1980s. He tips the hat to Kris again on a romantic version of “Help Me Make It Through The Night,” (featuring newcomer Kenley Shea Holm) that hits the right spot, and he partners up with the incredible Shelby Lynne on a couple of tracks, including the ever-moody “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” Though the waves have settled quite nicely in his personal life over the past few years, one gets the idea there’s a little bit of truth here.

There are also nods to Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Don Williams, with the latter’s music getting a workout via a cover of the 1978 classic “Tulsa Time,” with Joe Perry stopping by to add his magic touch. It’s definitely one of the highlights of the album.

And, there are the newer songs, which will delight fans as much as the more known fare. He teams up with Shooter Jennings for a gritty performance of “Killing The Blues,” shows a bit of humor on the funny “Stop Pickin’ On Willie,” and partners with daughter Miley on the sublime “Angels Protect This Home.” But, the gem of the newer material is the stunning “Hope (Let It Find You),” which is one of the most telling compositions that Cyrus has been a part of.

Since he first hit the scene, Cryus has had an uncanny knack for pleasing the fans and giving them what they want. That’s why he continues to be such a crowd pleaser in so many different arenas. Here’s betting that Thin Line will continue to put smiles on those faces – and a few more, at that!