Sometimes it takes a few listens of an album to really appreciate it. This was the case with the latest album sent to me to review but after a couple of weeks of listening to The Devil Don’t Sleep by Brantley Gilbert I have grown to really like it. Gilbert, who is known for his Country-Rock sound and gritty vocals maintains his brand in his latest record, delivering some really big tracks like the lead single off the album The Weekend. However, Brantley shows us his more softer, emotional side towards the end of the album. After already reaching the number 1 and 2 spots on the US Top Country Albums chart and US Billboard 200 respectively, this is sure to be one of the most popular albums of this year.
The album begins with Rockin Chair, a nice choice for an opening track; though the intro has a Country instrumentation and arrangement, it soon opens out into a much more Country-Rock production, however the theme is very much your typical Country topic about love, living and growing old with someone. The big sound and high tempo is maintained going into the second track, The Ones That Like Me, this holds an interesting concept and I particularly like the line in the chorus “The ones that said forget him, you can bet they ain’t forgot me.” The lead single follows, The Weekend. This feels like another feel good, party track, I mean it is about the weekend right and everyone loves the weekend!
You Could be That Girl is the fourth track and I really like this one for a few reasons, first of all I think the instrumentation in the intro in particular is very good and keeping with the instrumentation and arrangement of the track, there is a cracking guitar solo in the middle of the song which also appears again in the outro, something you don’t hear a lot of in Country music. Then there’s this little breakdown after the first solo which I think is really effective. There’s some great melodic hooks throughout and with all this in the song’s favour you’d think perhaps the lyrics might suffer however there’s some strong lines in the verses. Smokin’ Gun follows and this starts off quite quiet and you can hear more of Gilbert’s vocals and the emotion in his voice, something we hear a lot of later on in the album. The chorus for this song though explodes and we hear a lot of instruments come in at once. In general throughout the album the production works well with his gravelly vocals, it really is designed to complement it.
I wasn’t overly keen on the next song, Bro Code but like any song it still has its talking points and I have to say the chorus is quite catchy. This song definitely leans more towards rock than country although if you listen closely you can hear a banjo playing throughout. Another rock sounding song is It’s About To Get Dirty, however the lyrics still have a Country theme talking about mud and trucks. Tried to Tell Ya is another song that begins quiet and builds. Rhythmically and Melodically it reminds me a little of Sam Hunt, the way the lyrics are sung. In my Head and Way Back follow. I quite like Way Back, it has a high energy from the off and the lyrics and theme are really lovely and detailed. For example, in the second verse when he talks about his lovers bare feet up on the dash and getting a “call from your best friend, Becky.” And this is followed by Baby, Be Crazy which again features a guitar solo. The verses set up the chorus and pay off line well and there is a really nice slide guitar in the intro.
One of my favourites on the record is Outlaw In Me, at this point we see the record turn slightly and it mellows, in a positive way, we hear a new side to Brantley, a softer, more honest side to him almost. It’s an acoustic guitar based song with a nice organ leading into the chorus and it has some great storytelling style lyrics. The next song returns to the rock feel, Bullet In A Bonfire features some really clever backing vocals which I think really sets up the mood and feel of this song. Another one of my favourites is the title track which begins with Brantley Gilbert’s vocals straight in. The production is near perfect in this song and the arrangement of the drums, which are very effective, remind me of one of Carrie Underwood’s big hits.
The penultimate track on the album We’re Gonna Ride Again has a nice raw sound to it and Gilbert’s vocals actually suit this softer arrangement more than you’d expect. The last track, Three Feet Of Water, is a more emotional track. Again it’s very stripped back and begins with a piano. The second verse is lyrically quite flawless; “I can’t unbreak the laws, straighten out the rules I’ve bent, take the broken dreams and hearts, make ’em all whole again.”
So to conclude, this album took a while for me to warm to but what I will say is whatever your “cup of country” is, even if you’re not a huge fan of the rock side of it, give this album a chance because there are some hidden gems in there, and there really is something for everyone.