The Devil Don’t Sleep
Valory Music/BIG MACHINE
Nu-Country That Rocks Like an 80’s Chevy on Methanol.
I’m a bit ‘late to the party’ here; mostly because I think I like this album for all of the wrong reasons.
At first I got excited because Gilbert is on the hottest label in Country Music…. Big Machine and receiving lots of very high praise from the national press and Maverick magazine in particular.
The first day I played this I was seriously underwhelmed…..sorry guys….but I was. Apart from his breathy and grizzled voice, the music just isn’t Country as I understand it and memories of the last 4 or 5 disappointing CMA Award ceremonies sprang to mind.
But there was still ‘something’ about it that I thought deserved a second chance and with a long car journey in the itinerary I decided to give it a second chance and listen with a more ‘open mind.’
I’m glad I did.
Played LOUD on the open road……I get IT now!
First song in Rockin’ Chairs actually opens with some delightful slide guitar before the big guns pile in; and the song itself about ‘making memories’ that you can look back on is really quite good, and perfect for FM radio.
The power-ballad You Could Be That Girl also starts with some slide and goes into crashing guitars; but like Tried To Tell Ya too; just because there aren’t many banjos or a pedal-steel they can all still be ‘Blue Collar Country’ if you stretch your mind.
Or…..and this is when I started to like The Devil Don’t Sleep……..forget the ‘Country’ tag and think of Brantley Gilbert as the new Bon Jovi rather than Tim McGraw!
The stifling mood on Smokin’ Gun and the acoustic Outlaw in Me are great songs in any genre and if Sturgill Simpson covered the latter song the Americana press would wet their pants with excitement.
The Bon Jovi ‘feel’ comes across deep and wide on the timeless ‘anthemic’ rockers It’s About to Get Dirty and Way Back with guitar licks that Ritchie Sambora would be proud of.
We’re Gonna Ride Again and Bullet in a Bonfire both showcase Gilbert’s distinctive voice but also show what a great way he has with imagery in his lyrics too.
One song that took me by surprise was The Weekend, mostly as I presumed it would be ‘4 to the Floor’ Fist-Pumping boogie; still a ‘rocker’ but Gilbert throws a curve ball even giving it a bit of raw ‘punk’ feel around the edges……which may or may not reflect his own teenage years.
By the end of that three hour journey around the highways, by-ways and hills of rural Co. Durham two songs stuck in my head like ‘ear worms’; the intensely muscular Bro Code (which actually does feature a banjo!) and the title track The Devil Don’t Sleep which finds Gilbert in a reflective mode and sounding all the better for it.
Brantley Gilbert and BIG MACHINE won’t lose any sleep over my reservations about which rack to put this disc into in a record shop; as it’s destined to be a million seller by default; but my humble words might find him a couple more open-minded music snobs…..like me.
Released 27th January 2017