Neotraditional trio Midland made a sizable splash in the modern country pool in 2017 with the release of its debut album On the Rocks. Filled with immensely listenable, smooth ‘80s-style, neon-lit jams, including the retro-tactic smash hit “Drinkin’ Problem” the record helped Mark Wystrach, Cameron Duddy and Jess Carson win massive commercial tallies and an impressive number of major award nominations and victories.
Let It Roll, Midland’s enjoyable second full-length album, is squared away to please all those who reside in the camp of folks who prefer their favored artists not stray too far from any previously winning formulas. If in fact, as the cliché goes, history repeats itself, then the Texas-based band is in for another exciting year most likely, as Let it Roll could easily be named On the Rocks: The Refill.
Produced by committee of hit-making veterans, including Dann Huff (Keith Urban, Thomas Rhett), Shane McAnally (Kacey Musgraves, Sam Hunt) and Josh Osborne, every track is impeccably smooth and unwavering from the formula Midland introduced in 2017. For what it’s worth, the recipe is a rather pleasant one, if sometimes almost too perfected: A bit of Dwight Yoakam here, a dash of Urban Cowboy there, a twist of Brooks & Dunn and a smattering of cheating, truck-driving and heartbreaking tales carefully stirred in.
The up-tempo first single, “Mr. Lonely,” along with the dreamy “Put the Hurt on Me,” and “I Love You, Goodbye” which recalls the 1993 Grammy-winning “Aint That Lonely Yet,” each gives Midland fans a taste of just how much the trio admires Yoakam’s contributions to the country canon. In the Tejano-flavored “Cheatin’ by the Rules,” the group successfully merges their admiration for Yoakam’s signature sound and their desire to give fans another tune that comes uncannily close to sounding like “Drinkin’ Problem.”
But Yoakam isn’t the only country idol being worshipped here. The pun-intensive “Playboys” revels in galloping Waylon Jennings-style reverb as Wystrach sings about kicking out the lights. The mid-tempo “Fast Hearts and Slow Towns” recalls the Eagles and Jackson Browne with pretty harmonies and the peaceful easy feelings that come from driving on the Seven Bridges Road. Interestingly enough, Midland seems to be worried about having the “retro” or “throwback” label applied to them too often.
Perhaps, as a proactive measure to combat the proliferation of such labeling, there’s the fully plugged-in, southern rocking “21st Century Honky-Tonk American Band.” Aside from it being one of the more clunky named songs of the year, it’s a tad ill-fitting for a group so proudly hellbent on sounding and looking like icons of the past to sing a song about which century they’re actually living in.