Garth Brooks made his debut in Country music way back in 1989 with his debut self-titled album, which sold over 13 million copies worldwide. Over the course of his career so far he’s sold in excess of 70 million albums in the US alone and he remains one of the leading male artists in the genre. It’s been two years since the release of his last studio album, Man Against Machine, which became his eighth number one album. Following just a week after the release of Christmas Together, a collaborative album with wife Trisha Yearwood, Brooks has released his 10th studio album Gunslinger.
In an industry where Country traditionalists are under-served, the release of a new album by Brooks should be welcome relief. He embraces Country tradition and steers clear of the modern sound that currently dominates the genre. This comes with its problems though as much of Gunslinger sounds dated and old-fashioned. It’s hard to imagine much of this working on today’s radio and the performance of lead single Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance suggests he may struggled to hit the heights he’s so used to.
The album opens with the raucous Honky-Tonk Somewhere and the you’re immediately transported back 20 years. The track treads familiar territory for Brooks so long-time fans are sure to lap it up but it may leave newer listens a little cold. That’s really the issue that plagues the majority of the album. Weekend sound incredibly dated as does the big ballad Ask Me How I Know. Both songs sound slightly under-produced too and they may have benefitted from an additional bit of polish.
There are some strong moments across the album’s 10 tracks. He Really Loves You is a great showcase for Brooks’ voice and it’s one of the most sincere moments on the record. Another standout is the gorgeous Whiskey to Wine, a duet with Brooks’ wife Trisha Yearwood. There’s no denying that when the two stars come together on a track that magic is made.
Elsewhere on the record Brooks lets loose on the rock-infused Bang! Bang!, unleashes the power of his voice on the powerful Pure Adrenaline, and pays homage to his fans on the history-packed 8Teen.
Gunslinger is an album that showcases an artist in his comfort zone. It’s aimed squarely at the singer’s large and loyal fanbase so it’ll likely sell well. For me though it just sounds too dated and I don’t see where this fits in modern Country. I’m not saying that Brooks should chase trends but this collection is underwhelming and I expect better from such a well-renowned artist.
Track List: 1. Honky-Tonk Somewhere 2. Weekend 3. Ask Me How I Know 4. Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance 5. He Really Loves You 6. Pure Adrenaline 7. Whiskey to Wine 8. Bang! Bang! 9. Cowboys and Friends 10. 8Teen Record Company: Sony Music Release Date: Friday 25th November 2016