For Wild World, his fourth full-length record, Kip Moore isn’t reinventing himself as much as he’s emphasizing the things that make him unique. There’s a good chance such a mission is what the Georgia-born singer had in mind, given that he had a hand in writing all but one song on the album.
A prominent bullet point on the list of Moore’s signature traits is apparent in the very first notes of the self-produced record. As the rustic, raw “Janie Blue” begins, Moore’s forceful rasp cuts through and leads the song into a lovely melody for a striking leather and lace contrast.
You can take just about any opposites-attract analogy and apply them to most of the songs on Wild World. Salty and sweet, yin and yang, looking back while moving ahead— you get the idea. For the rock radio ready “Southpaw,” Moore elicits fist-pumps without sacrificing melody. In the rousing “Fire and Flame,” Moore’s soaring voice is still rather raspy when he sings “When I was desperate and I lost my faith, I found an angel is a broken place.”
The production throughout the album is unmistakably polished and, in some cases, such slickness threatens to usurp the song’s effectiveness. The guitar-powered gymnastics evident in “South” verge on overkill, but instead it keeps pace as a bright, chiming track. But the lows on the record are not only minimal, they’re not really all that low.
There are some satisfying slower tunes here, such as the simmering “Crazy For You Tonight” and the soulful title track. Both songs show More’s voice grow softer without sacrificing the grit that sets him apart and makes lines such as in “Wild World” when he sings the simply but poignantly “Be proud of the blue in your collar.” The serene “More Than Enough” is a heartening tribute to the beauty of sharing your life with the right partner.
Let’s make no mistake about it though, Moore is a rocker, and we’re not talking about his penchant for outdoor rock climbing. With a quickened tempo, “She’s Mine” boasts some serious Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers flavor while Moore sings about looking for meaning in love, and if you can give “Hey Old Lover” a couple of spins without detecting hearty notes of both Bruce Springsteen and the more raucous Garth Brooks stuff, than you need a new pair of earbuds.
For an artist who first splashed onto the scene singing about pickup trucks, Moore has done well to lyrically dig deeper as the years have passed. He’s clearly developed a definition of what it is that makes a Kip Moore album a Kip Moore album, and not merely just another modern country record. In an oft-monochromatic landscape overpopulated with paint by number songs, Moore’s keen ability to not only highlight his individuality, but to offer it in a relatable and appealing package, is an accomplishment worthy of celebration.