What I like most about Granger Smith’s Down a Dirt Road is neither the music nor Smith’s voice are polished. The guitar, an acoustic one, is in the forefront on these tracks. It is accompanied by other music and instruments, but with none of the slick, overdone feel to it that you would find on some more well-known artist’s albums. This only adds to the listening pleasure of the songs. Granger’s voice has a rough, guy-on-the-barstool sound to it. There’s no autotune here — and that’s a good thing. The raw un-tampered with quality of Granger’s voice adds an additional layer of listening pleasure to the music. While many artists go for a stripped down quality to their music later in their careers, Granger is starting out with one. There are points on the album where Granger’s voice strains and breaks a little bit as he reaches too far, but these spots are rare and do not take away from the albums charm.
One of the measures that I have to judge whether I like a song or not is how much I find myself singing it. ‘We Do It in a Field’ and ‘Silverado Bench Seat’ both pass this test of mine. ‘Field’ is about all the fun that you have with your friends and how you entertain yourself out in the sticks:
We do it in a field/
Rocking all night ’til the sun comes up/
We got a hundred blue cans/
sitting on ice in the back of my truck/
And George Strait blaring in the Chevrolet/
We open up the doors wide and let it play…
‘Bench Seat’ is of the genre of those tunes that sing about what a country boy can offer ya that’s special when dating:
My boots and jeans don’t go so well with/
white tablecloths and ritzy hotels…
…I wanna take you far from the city/
back on up a back road/
and watch the sun go down
I wanna love you on a Silverado Bench seat/
Foggin’ up the windows while we are parked down by the creek/
No other light besides the stars and the moon/
That’s what you get when this country boy loves you.
‘Bench Seat’ has the more infectious melody of the two, which is part of why it gets in your head. The other part is the idea of some truck cab loving!
Another standard I use is how much the song speaks to me. County-Western music’s appeal is that it tells a story. If it’s telling my story, all the better. Out of all the songs on the ablbum ‘Bury Me In Blue Jeans’ was the one that most struck me. This tune had me within the first two lines:
I guess I learned it from my granddad/
I liked the shirts with the little pearl snaps I’d/
die in boots. If it were up to me/
they’d bury me in blue jeans
As soon as I heard those ‘pearl snaps’, I thought ‘Oh, yeah, this songs about me.’ I’d love my snap shirts. And dying in boots–‘heck ya!’ Bury me in the jeans as well. That’s just how I feel most comfortable.
The other song that I think is a standout due to how it touches you with its poetic nature is ‘I Am The Midnight.’ This song is part ode; part curse to that time that occurs between this day and the next:
I am the lonely heart/
Home of the searching souls/
I am the whiskey sip you drink instead of going home/
I’m when the lovers rock/
I’m when the dreamers play/
I am the little bit of hope when you need another day
I’m the song when you want that slow dance/
on a Satruday night/
I am the sleep that you need that you don’t get/
on a late night drive/
I am the zeros/
on the clock/
when a hard days done, I’ll be your rock…
What a great way to capture all the action and emotion of the witching hour. What I like most is that the story of this song isn’t one person’s story; it’s everyone’s. We all can identify with some part of the song’s love it/hate it take on what goes on in the middle of the night.
In a similar vein as Toby Keith’s bus songs, Granger ends dirt road with two tongue-in-cheek (or in this case, dip-in-lip) songs: ‘Country Boy Love’ and ‘Country Boy Song.’ Both are sung by Granger’s alter ego, Earl Dibbles, Jr., a dip-chewing, overall-wearing, catfish-gutting good ol’ boy. The joke of the song’s alter ego is much clearer in the videos than the tunes themselves. Upon first listen, I thought Dibbles might be someone like Colt Ford. Both tunes have a harder rock/slightly rap edge to them. Both songs sing to what you would expect with “Country Boy” in the title. There’s “battling for buck’s on a first date”; “cracking a cold one”; and, my favorite line about a barb wire tattoo, “Of, course it goes all the way around.” The extreme country take on the typical country romance and country roots anthem may cause eye rolling for some, but for others, it will inspire them to sing along.
I got this album on download. It came with no digital booklet, which was a disappointment. I would have liked to have had that included. I like seeing what artists/record labels come up with as their concepts for an album. And of, course it’s always great to have photos of the artists themselves.
To look at photos of the rather nice looking Granger Smith, you’ll just have to head over to his website. The website also includes a nice background video on what inspired the song ‘We Do It In a Field.’