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Album Review: “Anything Goes” by Randy Houser

November 21, 2008

Anything Goes

 3 Stars

Randy Houser hit mainstream country music in a big way this year with his debut hit “Anything Goes”, a single that showed a lot of promise from this young troubadour and led him to be compared to the likes of Ronnie’s Dunn and Alan Jackson, some pretty decent names. His debut album, appropriately named Anything Goes, has been highly anticipated expecting solid country tunes with traditional feels like its title track. However the album is more geared around its title, anything goes.

Randy became famous for his association with Jamey Johnson and their writing collaboration on the Trace Adkins song “Honkey Tonk Badonkadonk”. His debut hit and vocal rendition of said hit seemed to hint that this song was not very reminiscent of what Randy would offer for his own project. The first single “Anything Goes” advertised Randy as a very powerful and emotional singer with vocal chops that revisited some of the genres most valued aspects. So his debut project seemed like it would be a possible revival of traditional country values and an introduction to the newest traditionalist in the genre with the potential to match Josh Turner and Blake Shelton and help preserve traditional country with respect to neo-traditional sounds.

In many ways this is the case, however in many more ways this album’s first single was quite misleading. Where it seemed Randy would not lean towards the sound of his famous writing efforts, he actually incorporates more of that sounds than that of his flawless debut hit. The opening track “Boots On” is a perfect example. Not only does it contain some pretty mediocre writingcompared to the remainder of the project, but it is also quite loud and instead of taking advantage of the simplicity and pureness of Houser’s voice it is actually overpowered by the instruments and has Randy seemingly yelling and shouting, obviously having fun but taking away from him as an artist. The same goes with otherwise better material on the project. “Back To God” serves as Randy’s noble attempt to explain how this world is so messed up in the simplest of ways while “My Kind Of Country”, with the exception of a few cliches, serves as a mirror image of Randy’s own country life. However both songs are littered with overpowered production and are just very, very loud.

Despite Randy’s excellence as a writer, this album also reveals some pretty major flaws in his choice of songs subjects and writing style. The first one that stands out immediately is “Lie” which puts Randy in a bar with a friend who preaches to him the most ridiculous philosophy that he could have ever come up with. He explains that to get a girl in the bar “a man has to do what a man’s gotta do” and in his opinion that is to lie. Basically the song doesn’t really help support the man as an emotional and touchy individual like his debut hit, this is almost the anti “Anything Goes” in a way. “Paycheck Man”, also being littered with loud production, is also very questionable. It can be seen as in relation to Johnny Paycheck’s famous hit “Take This Job And Shove It”, in fact it includes that exact line, but that’s not what Houser really meas. The song is actually an explanation of how today you can’t just do that, a man needs his paycheck. Despite this reality the lyrics are a little over the top and the inclusion of Paycheck’s line without actually supporting it seems superfluous.

Now that’s not to put down Houser’s debut project completely. It defiantly has its bright sides that make it worth a listen or two. Randy does offer up a lot of material that supports his power as a singer and writer. In addition to the title track there are songs like “Something Real” and “How Many Times” “Something Real”, a collaborative writing project with former star David Lee Murphy, actually sounds quite similar to the title track when everything starts, but takes a whole different direction as it progresses. With the same sincerity and emotion backing it up, Randy explains how he is looking for a woman who will make him really feel in love. In “How Many Times” Randy also brings back his powerful and sincere vocal rendition to explain how he messed up and regrets the mistakes he made that left him alone.

As a mid tempo track, “Wild Wild West” is far from perfect, in fact it’s a little underwritten as it uses classic western stereotypes to implore a getaway between him and his girl, but compared to his other fast paced material this is gold. It at least tries to mesh Randy’s vocals with a decently produced background track. However, the real glory behind this album lies in two songs, the title track and the closing track. “I’ll Sleep” is as flawless as “Anything Goes” and contains the power and projection that makes Houser such a worthy addition to the genre. This song serves as a connection between father and son using a simple song about the mother who had passed away. The end brings everything to a powerful climax that defines just how good Randy can be when he has his heart in the game.

Although Randy has showed a lot of promise and earned many fans by his revival of a glorious sounds in the genre, he falls a little short in the long run with his debut project. He has fun and shows off some different parts of his personality, but that doesn’t stop this album from sounding a little too overdone and maybe too rock n’ roll/country. What this album does show in the tracks that are worth the listen in that Randy knows what he’s doing and puts his heart into his songs when he can. This album comes off saying exactly what its title advertises, “anything goes”, however this philosphy doesn’t help support the excellence that everyone expected from Randy in his first crack at the major country market, but given some time and a little more consideration Randy could potentially become one of country’s new greats.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 24, 2008 1:59 pm

    This has gotta be the biggest dissapointment of mine all year. It’s not the worst album I’ve heard all year but I was expecting something like Jamey Johnson’s That Lonesome Song, instead we get Keith Anderson’s C’MON but with a better voice. I still love “Anything Goes” but the other songs will have to grow on me. Overall I’m not impressed.

  2. November 24, 2008 7:25 pm

    Expectations were pretty high on this one, and it was easy to lump Houser in with good pal, Jamey Johnson. The talent and the life experience are there to make a great album, but this seems like an appetizer platter that only hints at his potential.

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