Album Review: Granger Smith Comes In Second with ‘When the Good Guys Win’

 

WHEELHOUSE RECORDINGS | PHOTO COURTESY
Smith adopts more modern sound with ‘When the Good Guys Win’ LP.

Granger Smith has been strumming the six-string for country music many years now, releasing his first album in 1999.

However, it wasn’t until 2013’s “Dirt Road Driveway,” with singles “Miles and Mud Tires” and “Silverado Bench Seat,” enjoying long play time on country radio stations that Smith finally broke into the scene.

With the 2015 release “Remington,” Smith continued to ride the wave of success with very personal, relatable tracks for those of us who grew up in small towns and farming families.

Smith’s latest release, “When the Good Guys Win,” shows the musician’s growth and features more contemporary pop-country flavors. Added layering, electronic instrumentals and more contemporary (and at some times, even “bro country”) phrasing is a stark departure from the “good ol’ boy” early 2000s country of his previous works.

While experimentation is part of musical growth and expression, it is often a labyrinth to navigate in order to ferry fans safely through. Personally, I don’t agree that Smith was entirely successful in this aim, but there are still memorable tunes in the artist’s 10th studio album.

“Never Too Old” shows up on the second half of “When the Good Guys Win.”

Reverberating steel guitar is paired with electronic beat-paired drums. Background vocals during the chorus sound like Tyminski, the former band leader of Union Station, but I don’t see him listed anywhere.

A song that definitely adopts the trends of current country superstars, this song is one of many “updated” arrangements on the album.

A song about treating age as just a number and letting go and enjoying life, the chorus reassures, “Ain’t never too old to die young, never too tall to grow up, never too late to start living ‘cause you’re only given one …”

The title track of the album,“When the Good Guys Win,” talks about the small town values and the great feeling when your bad luck turns around. With lyrics like, “Don’t you love it when the good guys win, don’t you love it when the ship comes in? Yeah man, every now and then, what goes around, comes around again — this song is something everyone can identify with. Banjo, steel and electric guitar, with accent acoustic strummings, give this song an attraction that goes past the lyrics.  

“Everybody Lives” is one of the closest to the style Granger Smith has been known for up until now.

I am usually not a person who actively listens to sad or slow songs, but Granger Smith’s are one of the exceptions. His lyrics draw me in more than others. Add in instrumentation accented with reverberating steel and electric guitar, and you’ve got me hooked in.

The title of the song versus the meaning of the song threw me off guard.

It isn’t a peppy song about life after death; instead, it is a somber track pleading with people to live life to its fullest and to stop and smell the roses. After all, as Smith reminds us, “Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.”   

“Still Holds Up” is a favorite of mine. Not only because of the nostalgic feeling I get as it takes me back to the country music I grew up on, but the fact that my “old soul” identifies with the lyrics. The fact that it talks about Massey tractors and vinyl records may also play a role.

A song about valuing old things, it’s an upbeat song that will have you tapping your foot and singing along.

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