Album Review: Luke Bryan’s ‘What Makes You Country’

There is no denying that Luke Bryan is a country boy. Throughout his sixth studio album, aptly titled What Makes You Country, the Georgia native sings about his country roots, among other topics. Co-produced by Jeff and Jody Stevens, What Makes You Country features 15 versatile tracks that vary from love and loss to the power of a song and dreaming big.

“I’ve gotten to follow all my dreams and still remain true to who I am as a person,” Bryan says. “I just try to go in the studio and record music that makes me happy, makes me feel something and makes me emotional at times. Songs that I visualize my crowd reacting to.”

While Bryan includes catchy party songs like “Drinking Again” and “Driving This Thing” on the album, he also digs deep on the poignant “Most People Are Good” and the standout “Land of A Million Songs,” making for a well-rounded release that tugs on the heartstrings. Bryan co-wrote seven of the album’s 15 tracks and whether he’s singing about the life he hopes his sons will have on “Pick It Up” or how to treat a girl on “Like You Say You Do,” Bryan reaffirms exactly why he’s one of the genre’s most sought after artists.

On the title track “What Makes You Country,” Bryan sings of the constant debate of what makes someone country. Is it their boots, the size of their fires or their “wild ass buddies?” As he reminisces of his own days on the farm covered in peanut dust, Bryan explains that country can be found in everything. “You can be a cowboy on the Texas plain / Or a plow boy waitin’ on the rain / We’re all a little different but we’re all the same / Everybody doin’ their own thing,” he sings. “Just be proud of what makes you country.”

Later, he shares his optimistic views on humanity within the lyrics of the powerful “Most People Are Good.” Penned by David Frasier, Ed Hill and Josh Kear, the song’s sweet sentiment has Bryan singing of how he believes kids should stay kids as long as they can and the importance of working hard for what you want in life.

“I believe most people are good / And most mamas oughta qualify for sainthood / I believe most Friday nights look better under neon or stadium lights / I believe you love who you love, ain’t nothin’ you should ever be ashamed of / I believe this world ain’t half as bad as it looks,” he sings on the chorus.

When he’s not offering philosophical views on life, Bryan amps up his sex appeal with songs like the sultry summer jam “Out of Nowhere Girl.” A tale of running into a girl at a bar on a Saturday night, Bryan muses of how she “fell right out of the sky and landed right here tonight” to dance with him. His rhythmic singing style combined with hand snapped beats and soaring guitar licks heat things up. Meanwhile, on “Hungover In a Hotel Room” added harmonies from Emily Weisband light a spark as Bryan croons of a fun night under the sheets that has him considering to extend his hotel stay.

The album’s standout moments include two songs Bryan had a hand in writing, “Land of A Million Songs” and “Pick It Up.” On “Land of A Million Songs” he sings of his move to Nashville in hopes to chase after the songs inside him.
“Everybody’s got a story that needs to be told / And they pray someday they’ll hang a little Gold / And ride back to their hometown with their head held high / On any given day there’s a dream, there’s a chance that lightning will strike at the end of a pen and all of the leaving and losing will all be worth the fight / So you’re always searching for a little something different to say,” he sings. Later, he observes, “Some will come and some will go / If you don’t lay it all out there you’ll never know.”

On “Pick It Up” Bryan is quite literally laying things out for his sons in hopes to guide them in life. Throughout the song, he sings of leaving a fishing rod, Bible, guitar and Ronnie Milsap record in his son’s room. While he doesn’t want to force them to pick these things up, he instead wishes that one day they might find some interest and smile when they think of him.

Six albums into his career, Bryan continues to surprise listeners. While the hip-shaking singer may be best known for his party anthems and dance moves in concert, What Makes You Country has the singer-songwriter diving deeper with songs that will no doubt survive the test of time.