Album Review: Jon Pardi’s ‘California Sunrise’

Well known for his blend of traditional and modern country, Jon Pardi effortlessly combines the old with the new for his 12-song sophomore release, California Sunrise.

“I always want to have the traditional country soul while meeting the new standards of country music,” Pardi explains. “As a songwriter, we’re looking for a good story and we’re always looking to push the limits. I love having those lyrics that at first make you think it’s about one thing, but it’s really about something so much more.”

Songs like opening track “Out of Style” exemplify Pardi’s mix of  traditional country with a modern day flair as he sings about learning the secrets of songwriting upon moving to Nashville. “Write about the things you know about. If there’s anything that you don’t know about just stick around and you’ll find out before too long,” he sings. A driving drum beat accompanies fiddle, pedal steel and electric guitar throughout the five minute jam.

Pardi teamed up with producer Bart Butler again in the studio and in order to capture the live energy on the album, they recorded each song with a full band.

“I’m a big fan of a live band recording and it was really important for me to get that sound on my record,” Pardi shares. “The heart of this record comes across with a live band. We used seven guys – one band, and there’s something special about that.”

Cover art courtesy Capitol Records Nashville

Cover art courtesy Capitol Records Nashville

The album itself is easy to envision in the live setting thanks to the seven-piece band. Songs like “Night Shift” include plenty of fiddle and pedal steel while the bass-heavy “Dirt On My Boots” begs to be danced to. Appropriately, dancing is a frequent theme throughout California Sunrise. Current single “Head Over Boots” has Pardi gushing about a girl who he has fallen for while on “Can’t Turn You Down” he finds himself dancing in his bedroom with said girl.

As in life and in country music, there is also some heartbreak. But for Pardi, that heartbreak also happens on the dance floor. On the appropriately titled “Heartache on the Dance Floor,” Pardi sings of a night that has him falling for a girl while she’s shaking her hips but he never catches her name or number. The beat heavy instrumental intro of the song combined with fiddle best showcases Pardi’s ability to meld modern and traditional.

Additional highlights include the emotional “She Ain’t In It” which has Pardi trying to get over an ex. While he’s ready to go out to the bar with friends after a month of sulking by himself, he hopes she isn’t there. The soaring string features and slowed acoustic guitar only add to the hurt.

A standout release, California Sunrise combines Pardi’s love of traditional country with a modern feel thanks to distinct percussion and electric guitar combined with pedal steel and fiddle, leaving the listener satisfied. Closing with the foot-stomping title track, which ends with nearly a minute instrumental jam, Pardi’s staying power is evident.