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Album Review: “Jeff Bates” by Jeff Bates

December 11, 2008

Jeff Bates

4 Stars

 

Jeff Bates is to date one of the most unfortunate success stories in the genre. By this I mean that he has undergone such a huge roller coaster of a career it’s amazing he’s still going at it. After struggling as an abandoned child and a meth addict, he most recently had to come to grips with being dropped from his record label RCA. However, as with anything in his life, he didn’t let that get him down and he returns with a new label (Black River) and a self-titled album.

I feel for Bates because after suffering from such a poor post-celebrity life he managed to score a long awaited record deal, a cult of fans, and even a few big radio hits, but even after all that the business still through him out and decided to go for more contemporary sounds that they thought the younger crowd wanted to here. Well it is true that Jeff’s sound is more geared towards seemingly more “mature” audience, but that does not make him a bad artist. In fact, as this album proves, it actually makes him one of the most worth while voices in the business. He manages to cover everything, the bad, the good, and the in between, about life in 13 tracks of consistent, enjoyable and broad music.

Up until now Jeff’s career has been formed around a sound that is more geared towards the classical tone of his heros. For the first time this whole scheme is thrown for a loop and we get what sounds like Jeff’s first real interpretation of his own personality and his own sound in his music. The obvious shift is apparent in the album’s first single “Don’t Hate Me For Loving You” which tells the comical, yet serious story of a man begging the woman he loves not to hold this love against him and to hopefully embrace it and go along with it. This song is more upbeat and energetic than anything else that Bates has thrown to radio and presents a more exciting persona. This is consistent throughout much of this project with Bates focusing on different areas of life and the world with a more optimistic and energetic presentation about him.

The opening track, “I Can’t Have Nothing Nice”, is also comical and yet it makes you feel bad for the character in a way. While it focuses on how things never go your way and its always the best things in life that are taken away from you in the worst ways, it’s funny. You may feel for the character, but the presentation makes it much more laughable than disappointing, a concept that Jeff has apparently learned to incorporate into these situations through the crossroads of his own life. You can also look at “Some Days” and say the same thing because while the song is centered around the ups and down of life, it’s more “feel good” than “feel sorry for yourself”.

You also see more of Jeff Bates himself in these upbeat songs. For example, not only does he mention the Chevy brand of truck in his upbeat “Chevy Don’t Let Me Down”, but it remains a consistent reference throughout the project. In addition he takes the popular title “Country Man” and turns it into his own autobiographical tune.

What really shines about this album though is, of course, the ballads. Jeff has an extreme talent for singing slow and powerful songs with respectable messages or real romantic touches. When you listen to tracks like “Somebody’s Fallin'” and “One Thing” they actually sound worthy of being wedding songs. They are touching and well performed ballads that could very much compete with any of the corny love songs that have managed to make their mark the past few years. Then you have songs that touch on really powerful stories and life lessons. Where “My Wave” is one of the most solid songs about living life to the fullest from the past few years, “He Wasn’t Like Us” is about being a bully to a man born with defects and realizing that you had it all wrong. Possibly the most accomplished work on this project is the new single “Riverbank” which is a heartfelt dedication to Jeff’s dad as he stands in a graveyard wishing he was standing with his dad again by a riverbank instead of by his grave.

It’s unfortunate that country radio threw away a gem like Jeff Bates. His life has had so many twists and turns that he comes to the table with an already established understanding of how to convey messages with relativity and effectiveness without going over the edge. Whether it’s through a powerful balled or comedic wordplay Jeff doesn’t miss a beat. The album is consistent, it’s mixed well, and it grows on you pretty fast for a project from an independent label. Most of all though, this album is Jeff Bates. It’s his personality, his life, his voice, and it’s all done his way and that proves to be the best way to do it and to show country radio what they’re missing.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 16, 2011 7:39 pm

    You are a very capable writer. Keep it up. Thanks!

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