Anyone that tells you talent shows don’t produce real talent with longevity is talking utter nonsense. Rising country star Frankie Ballard started off his career by winning Kenny Chesney’s Next Big Star competition in 2008. His win paved the way for a record deal in 2010 with Reprise Records, where he released his self-titled debut album. That album performed modestly and Ballard left his label signing a new deal with Warner Music. In 2014 he released his second album Sunshine & Whiskey, which hit the Top 5 on the US Country Chart and spawned three big singles. Now ahead of his appearance at C2C: Country to Country, Ballard’s Sunshine & Whiskey album is finally getting a proper UK release.
Sunshine & Whiskey’s arrival in the UK coincides with the release of his new single It All Started With a Beer, which has recently hit the airwaves in the US. The album features 11 tracks, with Ballard only getting a co-write on one, utilising the best writers in country music including Shane McAnally, Rhett Akins an Ashley Gorley. Young & Crazy is the track that opens the record and anyone who has listened to contemporary country music in recent times will soon realise Ballard fits neatly into the current climate. His music has the youthful energy of a rising star delivered with a rockier edge that many of his contemporaries.
The introspective Helluva Life, which is one of the three big hits on the record, sees Ballard musing about the ups and downs of life while a banjo riff drives the song’s melody. It’s not hard to see the song’s appeal, as the lyrics are easy to relate to for most of us. Who hasn’t pondered the trials and tribulations of life? Ballard kicks up a notch on It Doesn’t Take Much, the song he co-wrote, that is similar in style to Kip Moore and it’s one of the best vocals from Ballard on the record.
Elsewhere the title track Sunshine & Whiskey is catchy as hell, Drinky Drink is packed with swagger praising the virtues of hiding heartache with alcohol, and I’m Thinking Country packs in the energy of a good stadium-sized anthem.
One of the best moments comes on the surprisingly soulful Sober Me Up. Ballard sings about needing a helping hand to get his feet back on the ground after being swept up in the hectic nature of life as a musician on the road. Vocally the song shows a different side to Ballard and it’s one I’d like to hear more of on his next record.
The album comes to a close on a serious note with Don’t Tell Mama I Was Drinking. Ballard tells the story of an encounter with a drunken truck driver who crashes his truck and ultimately dies in front of him. The subject matter is heavy and it’s a little bit of an uneven fit for an album that is mostly about partying, girls and having fun.
Sunshine & Whiskey is a solid effort from Ballard. The album doesn’t always do enough to push Ballard’s individuality but I suspect that will be fleshed out further on his next record. Vocally he’s a different proposition from his contemporaries and he harks back more to traditional country. Now that he’s had success with this record in the US, I hope he explores the more soulful side of his vocal and carves out his own niche on his next effort. His latest single It Started With a Beer suggests that he may do just that.
Watch the music video for Sunshine & Whiskey below:
Track listing: 1. Young & Crazy 2. Sunshine & Whiskey 3. It Don’t Take Much 4. Helluva Life 5. Drinky Drink 6. Tell Me You Get Lonely 7. Sober Me Up 8. I’m Thinking Country 9. Tip Jar 10. Don’t You Wanna Fall 11. Don’t Tell Mama I Was Drinking Record Company: Rhino Release Date: 5th February 2016