Kane Brown suffers more than any other artist in Country music when it comes to recognition and acclaim. Having produced some of the most original and authentic music since the release of his debut album in 2016, Brown has been continually snubbed when it comes to award ceremonies but has cemented a fervent and very loyal fan base with songs like ‘What Ifs’, ‘Heaven’ and ‘Lose It’. Wider acclaim from other areas of the music industry has been totally justified as Brown has pushed the boundaries of Country music and experimented with differing styles and sounds through collaborations with the likes of Marshmallo and John Legend.
‘Different Man’ is Brown’s third full-length album and couldn’t have been titled any more appropriately. Brown is different, a breath of fresh air in a very staid industry, a disruptor who isn’t afraid to go against the grain. What will come as a surprise to all the traditionalists and gatekeepers is that ‘Different Man’ is absolutely jam-packed with Country music songs, even veering into Country & Western at times! The experimentation that Brown has dabbled with at times during other parts of his career on single and EP releases has definitely been held at arms length as Brown goes full-on cowboy across large parts of this album.
If it’s big, bombastic songs that float your boat then you will love songs like ‘Bury Me in Georgia’, ‘Different Man’ and ‘Riot’. The former opens the album is some style as Brown sings about where he wants to be buried after his death. It’s a darker, quite portentous song with some searing guitars and a church organ in the final third that only adds to the funereal feel. The title track, meanwhile, which features Blake Shelton, sits somewhere between Shelton’s own ‘God’s Country’ and Bon Jovi’s ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ in terms of vibe and tone. Both singers pose the question, ‘What if I was made for the stage? What if I was made for the lights? What if I was chosen to write the stories, wasn’t built to work the line?’ Brown has always excelled at drilling down into personal, biographical songs in the past and ‘Different Man’ continues that excellent tradition. ‘Riot’, which Brown currently uses to open his live set, is another ballsy, in-your-face song that is part-song, part-intro tape in terms of style. There’s some frenetic John Osborne style guitars that rock out as the song progresses that make this one an absolute gem that should sit nicely in Brown’s live set for years to come.
If it’s traditional Country music you like you might be surprised to know that Brown has a number of songs on ‘Different Man’ that fit the bill. Recent hit, ‘Like I Love Country Music’ is a fun, fiddle-flied romp with serious 90s feels. It could easily have been plucked right from Shania Twain’s ‘Come on Over’ in terms of style whilst ‘Devil Don’t Even Bother’ sees Brown doing both Country AND Western!! ‘Devil….’ feels like a song that could have been written for one of Sergio Leone’s infamous spaghetti westerns of the 60s and 70s as Brown sings about a girl who will ‘eat your heart for breakfast whilst she’s walking out the door’. ‘One Mississippi’, meanwhile, is a wonderful juxtaposition of ‘old meets new’ Country music with fiddles a-go-go on a song that sizzles with verve and energy.
No Kane Brown album is complete, though, without a couple of heartfelt and tender ballads. ‘Different Man’ has a number of them. The one that will grab the headlines is ‘Thank God’, a duet Brown does with his wife, Katelyn. Tonally, think Extreme’s ‘More Than Words’ but recorded by Ed Sheeran. Katelyn’s vocals are delightful. Smooth, strong and totally appropriate for the song as the couple sing about their love for each other. Look beyond this headline grabber, though, and you’ll find ‘Leave You Alone’, ‘Whiskey Sour’ and ‘See You Like I Do’. The former is a tender song with a melodic cadence that morphs into something akin to a Bon Jovi ballad with a Bluesy chorus and big final third. The latter is a smooth, almost 70s style disco-tinged song with massive John Legend influences writ large across it as Brown pushes those boundaries that he is so famous for doing. ‘Whiskey Sour’, meanwhile, is a sparse, simple heartbreak song that puts Brown’s rich baritone vocals front and centre. It will be perfect for intimate settings and storyteller moments.
Throw in the funky Latino-tinged ‘Girl From Ipanema’ vibe of ‘Drunk or Dreaming’, the intimate, personal storytelling of ‘Pop’s Last Name’ and the positive, uplifting mainstream Country feels of ‘Dear Georgia’ and you are left with something of a behemoth of an album. This is a five star album but it loses half a star for being too long and suffering from a flow that is a bit disjointed in terms of the sequencing, something that is impossible to achieve anyway across 17 songs! Cut back to 12-13 songs and re-sequenced a little this album would flow even better than it already does. It’s one of my favourite albums of the year and easily the best album Kane Brown has done in his career to date but as a purist, who likes to listen to albums in the order that the artist has chosen, it loses a little in terms of flow along the way. I love the fact that the album is bookended by two songs about Georgia, that’s mighty fine planning and it will leave Brown with a serious headache as to which songs to play in his live set too because there are so many bangers here!
‘Different Man’ is a triumph. It’s a whopper of an album with searing guitars and fiddles all over the place. Is it too late to win over the traditionalists and nay-sayers? Who cares! I doubt Brown and his team do. They’ll continue to go about their business with passion and authenticity, continually carving out new sounds and pushing the boundaries when and where they sit fit. ‘Different Man’ is Kane Brown’s biggest, loudest, most guitar-filled album to date and it’s also full of plaintive fiddles and honky-tonk romps. The ballads are tender and heartfelt too. What an artist Kane Brown is turning out to be – I can’t wait to see him on his UK tour next January, it’ll be fascinating to see what makes the cut live and what doesn’t but it’s a nice headache to have.
Track List: 1. Bury Me in Georgia 2. Different Man 3. Like I Love Country Music 4. Go Around 5. Grand 6. See You Like I Do 7. Thank God 8. Leave You Alone 9. Riot 10. One Mississippi 11. Drunk or Dreaming 12. Losing You 13. Whiskey Sour 14. Pop’s Last Name 15. Devil Don’t Even Bother 16. Nothin’ I’d Change 17. Dear Georgia Release Date: September 9th Record Label: RCA Nashville Buy ‘Different Man’ now