Hard work really does pay off and if there’s one band in Country music that knows that, it’s Old Dominion. The band came together as individual songwriters and musicians, and released their debut album Meat and Candy in 2015. They scored their first number one that year with second single Break Up with Him and have gone on to score countless number one hits since including Song For Another Time, No Such Thing as a Broken Heart, Written in the Sand, Hotel Key and Make It Sweet. As well as finding success on their home turf, the band has gone global finding a big fanbase in Europe and particularly the UK, where they’ve toured several times over the past few years.
This week sees the release of the band’s self-titled third album, the follow-up to 2017’s number one record Happy Endings. The album has been a long-time coming with the band having turned it into their label at the beginning of the year. They also started releasing singles from it last year with Make It Sweet the lead track. When they toured the UK last year, we got treated to a handful of songs that made it onto the final track-list for this new album.
For Old Dominion, the band has collaborated once again with hit-maker Shane McAnally with both taking on production duties. Each of the 12 tracks features various members of the band on songwriting duties with frontman Matthew Ramsey, guitarist/keyboard player Trevor Rosen and guitarist Brad Tursi credited on almost every track. Those that have heard the tracks released from the record so far (half of the album was released prior to the full album) you’ll have a good idea what to expect. The songs here are a progression from the last two records, injecting more soul than we’ve heard before and sounding looser than the tighter production of the last two records.
The album fittingly opens with Make It Sweet, their latest number one, and it’s a perky track driven by hand claps and a strong melody. Lyrically the song encourages the listener to embrace the good in life and make the best of the short time we have on this Earth. It’s a positive message and one that more of us could do with taking to heart. Of the tracks released prior to the album arriving in full, My Heart is a Bar and Midnight Mess Around have been the strongest. My Heart is Bar is a piano-led song about realising you’re being taken advantage of by people looking for comfort but never being able to find a shoulder to cry on yourself when you need one. It features a great vocal from Matthew and the intricate instrumentation really lifts the melody. Midnight Mess Around is a different beast altogether, incorporating a bluesier rhythm while Matthew sings about feeling frisky in the presence of a woman that’s feeling similarly. It’s a fun record that perfectly captures that feeling of lust I’m sure we’ve all felt.
The 6 tracks that hadn’t been available before the full album dropped are a real mix of sounds and flavours. Do It With Me has an 80s sounding guitar riff while the instrumentation and harmonies are super smooth as the band encourages the object of their affection to spend their time with them. Hear You Now feels like a nod to Fleetwood Mac, American Style is a funky pop number that will be a smash live, and Paint the Grass Green is a nice bridge from Happy Endings to this record. The standouts are the throwback feel of Smooth Sailing, which the band performed during their recent UK tour, and the moody Country track I’ll Roll.
Elsewhere on the record Never Be Sorry has a fun vintage soul/pop feel to it and One Man Band, the band’s current single, sees Matthew singing about wanting to be in a relationship rather than moving through life alone. Album closer Some People do was co-written with Thomas Rhett and it’s a big ballad that brings the album to a subtle but solid close.
With each record Old Dominion continues to evolve and hone their craft. This is their most mature collection of songs yet and some fans may find it’ll take a few listens for these tracks to get under their skin. I always think Old Dominion are a band that are in their element live and often I’ve found that after seeing them performing live, the songs take on completely different meanings. With the band back in March for C2C: Country to Country, I look forward to hearing more of these tracks live but until then I’ll be putting this strong collection of songs on repeat.
Track list: 1. Make It Sweet 2. Smooth Sailing 3. One Man Band 4. Never Be Sorry 5. My Heart is a Bar 6. Midnight Mess Around 7. Do It With Me 8. Hear You Now 9. I’ll Roll 10. American Style 11. Paint the Grass Green 12. Some People Do Record label: Sony Music Release date: 25th October 2019 Buy Old Dominion