Sam Hunt is one of the most exciting stars in modern country music. The singer-songwriter has carved out a niche for himself mixing 90s R&B rhythms with country for a unique sound that is instantly identifiable as him. Hunt’s 2014 album release Montevallo is one of the best debut releases from a new country artist in recent memory and it’s spawned huge hits in the shape of Leave the Night On, Take Your Time, House Party and Breakup in a Small Town. As we eagerly await his next album (please let it be due in 2016), Hunt has released Between the Pines an acoustic mixtape originally released in 2013 that features tracks from Montevallo along with a handful of tracks that didn’t make it onto Montevallo and some he’s written for other artists.
The sign of a truly great artist is one that can perform their songs acoustically without them losing any of the charm that made you love them in the first place. Not many artists can pull it off but Hunt does with ease on Between the Pines. The album opens with the party vibe of Raised On It and the track is one of 7 that eventually made it onto Montevallo. The soft country of ballad Cop Car, which was recorded by Keith Urban before Hunt included it on his own album, is one of the highlights showcasing a gentler side to the rugged star.
Elsewhere on the mixtape Hunt shines brightly on the gorgeous Speakers, keeps the party vibe going with the raucous House Party, and proves just how catchy Leave the Night On Is with a tight acoustic version. Of the tracks that didn’t make it onto Montevallo, Hunt’s version of the song he co-wrote for Billy Currington We Are Tonight is a definite highlight as is the beat-driven Bottle It Up. Our favourite moment comes on the sing-a-long Vacation that features an almost hip-hop beat underlying the melody.
Another favourite comes on the powerful Goodbye, which sees Hunt pushing his vocals in ways that we’ve not heard before. He unleashes a gruff power on the build up to the chorus that we really like. The acoustic riffs are memorable and Hunt could easily have a big hit with the song.
The mixtape comes to a close with Hunt’s version of Come Over, a song that he originally co-wrote for Kenny Chesney. It’s an emotional end to an interesting and varied mixtape, and one that is definitely worth revisiting time and time again.
Between the Pines: Acoustic Mixtape is the perfect release to bridge the gap between Montevallo and Hunt’s second album. It reminds you how great an artist he is and shows that he can still excite without polished productions work. Few artists get us as excited as Hunt does but there’s something about him and his music that we can’t get enough of. We’re still waiting for a real promotional push here in the UK and we’re hoping that’ll coincide with his arrival for C2C: Country to Country in 2016 where he will be performing on the main stage.