I'm not a fan of modern country, although I believe there's a place at the table for everyone and understand that while it's not my thing, its popularity means it obviously connects with a lot of people, which has always been the number one goal of commerical country music.
That said, Cody Johnson proves you can still be 21st century but pure country—and not just from a nostalgic "these are my roots" mentality. Listening to this album, the first thing that stands out is his voice. Again, not to harp on other country artists, but these days I feel like everyone is trying for a certain sound or to sound like someone else. Maybe it's becasue of all the reality singing competition shows or all the covers people post on YouTube and TikTok, but, to me, it's kind of rare that someone with a distinct but genuine voice comes along. I find myself wanting to compare him to, like, a George Strait. But even that's not quite right. I think he has his own sound. It's a strong, manly, country voice, but it has a lot of depth and color to it. It's not nasally or whiny. It's not forcefully gritty or affected. It's just a great, powerful, sound.
The second thing that stands out listening to this is the songwriting. Again, he hits the mark. These songs have depth. They're singable and memorable, sometimes rambunctious and sometimes tender, but they're not gimmicky or trying to be so profound that they come off as cheesy. No, these songs seem authentic and personal. He really knows what he's doing, and I buy into it.
Thirdly, the production is really good. I mean, the album sounds fantastic through my speakers. The mixing is great, and it puts his voice front and center without taking anything away from the other musicians.
Finally, I have to say I like that Cody looks like a country star. What I mean by that is that in the past few years, there's been a slew of country artists who look like people you'd run into at Walmart on any given Friday night. And I get it. That's relatable. But, not to sound old-fashioned, there's something respectable about someone who presents himself like a bonafide star. He doesn't seem cocky or overly primped, just, again, genuinely country and well groomed.
I started listening to this album after I saw a couple of the acoustic covers he did on YouTube. I have much respect for him and his music. This ablum is great, and I look forward to hearing more. I think hits all the right notes, literally and figuratively.