Review: Charles Esten - Love Ain't Pretty
Charles Esten shot to fame as part of the cast of hit TV show 'Nashville', where he played talented yet often troubled musician, Deacon Claybourne.
As part of the Nashville cast tours, Esten showcased some of his own music as well as sharing fan favourites from the show, alongside his colleagues, and developed a loyal fanbase who were eager to hear more.
Now, Esten has started 2024 by releasing his independent debut album, 'Love Ain't Pretty'.
He co-wrote all 14 songs alongside hitmakers such as Eric Paslay, Jon Nite, Gary Burr and Leslie Satcher and together they explore themes of love, life and the passing of time.
The album opens with the delicate title track. Esten's soulful voice is gentle in it's delivery as the song begins before it builds and opens up into a country rock anthem.
A particular highlight on the record is 'One Good Move' which feels like a sunrise as the protagonist takes stock on how fulfilled his life is now compared to the past, thanks to his lover. Marshall Altman does a fantastic job on the production.
He ramps up the energy levels with the edgier, 'I Ain't', complete with guitar solos which break up the choruses. His style reminds me a little bit of Kip Moore or Mitchell Tenpenny on this track.
The lyrics in 'When Love Ain't Love' are cleverly put together with the melody which make it a catchy number whilst 'Candlelight' soars. Lyrics such as 'No one else can hold a flame, she puts a chandelier to shame' paint a vivid picture of a beautiful love.
'Back In My Life Again' is a classic country song, slightly less rock leaning than the rest of the album and the drawl in his voice on 'Make You Happy' shows his country roots.
The laid back arrangement of 'Willing To Try' is refreshing after an explosive first half of the record, Esten is beginning to settle into emotive songs with a strong lyric that does all the work.
The production on this song and 'Maybe I'm Alright' are really complimentary of what the lyric and melody demand.
Esten saves my favourite until last, 'Somewhere in the Sunshine'. The detailed lyrics paint such a clear picture in the listeners mind and bring a sense of comfort to those who have lost someone close. "It's got a mountain view, you can see the ocean too, I guess that's why they call it paradise," he sings.
This record has been a long time coming but it was certainly worth the wait! It has influences of his time in 'Nashville', particularly from a lyrical perspective, infused with rock sensibilities in the production.
Esten is on tour in the UK throughout April and May. Make sure to check out the album and get your tickets now.