Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Motley Crue - Full Review

I posted a knee-jerk quickie review on the Nashville Outlaws Motley Crue tribute record when only one minute snippets were available. I have now had the chance to listen to the record in its entirety. While I've had some slight changes of opinion after listening to the whole songs, I will say that my quick hits were fairly spot on.

With 15 songs all done by different artists, this record can't be judged as an album, but rather the individual songs deserve to be critiqued on their own individual merits. Because this thing is all over the map, I'll do a song-by-song breakdown.

First a little background. While I'm not the biggest Motley Crue fan in the world, I grew up listening to hair bands and sleaze rock. The Motley songs that I really liked, I judge the covers a little differently than the songs I thought were meh. I'm also a fan of country music. So I come at this from both angles. Or maybe neither. Or a combination.

I wouldn't even bother with this if it had turned out to be the trainwreck I initially thought it would be when first hearing of the project, but there is some really interesting stuff on the record. Let's get to it.

If you can get past Rascall Flatts' "Kickstart My Heart", things get better. I promise. It's not that it's awful, it's just that there's nothing original there. It's a straight-up cover of the original. With Gary Levox on vocal. The studio musicians are good. But as in most of the straight covers, they should have consulted Mick Mars on how to get that bathtub guitar sound. It's just bland and pointless.

I really don't like saying nice things about Florida Georgia Line, but although they did a pretty straight cover of "If I Die Tomorrow", it sounds pretty good. After the first verse the singer loses some of his drawl and it starts to sound real. Wisely, they didn't try to replicate Mars' guitar sound and infused some banjo?, mandolin?, but it doesn't sound out of place. I would be much happier if FGL would stick to this kind of stuff and leave the EDM and rap somewhere else.

Odd song choice for Lee Ann Rimes with "Smokin' in the Boys Room". Which is actually a cover of Motley's cover of the old Brownsville Station song. While I initially didn't care for this song at all, the bluesy, jazzy vibe is kind of cool. The problem is that Rimes stretches the song out about two minutes too long. It just starts getting tiresome at the end.

The lead single from the record, Justin Moore's "Home Sweet Home" with Vince Neil is a watered down version of the original. All 80's power ballads translate easily into country music. So, it makes sense. This was just unnecessary. The original was all that was needed.

While Cassadee Pope's "The Animal in Me" doesn't stray too far from the original, it's interesting to hear the song with a female voice. It's obvious she feels comfortable in this type of music, although it's not much different from what she puts out for country radio now. I do like this one.

Now we get to something truly original and interesting. Aaron Lewis turns "Afraid" into a very classic sounding country song. I really didn't care that much for the original song. If anyone didn't know this was originally a Motley Crue song, they might think it was an Aaron Lewis original. Let's take a little time here to give a little credit to Nikki Sixx as a songwriter in general and lyricist specifically. I mean, just listen to lyrics in "Afraid". Lewis took those lyrics and constructed a very country song around them. This may be my favorite track on the record. May be.

Big and Rich's "Same Ol' Situation" just doesn't do it for me. That may be just

because I really liked the original so well. Or it may be because the cover is crap. I will give them credit for not going straight cover. I really can't say it's bad, it's just not for me. Moving on.

"Without You". Another 80's power ballad. Again, easy transition. But Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio do it as a duet. And pretty much acoustically. And it works. This is one that after hearing the full version, I've changed my opinion. I like it. It really has more of an Americana feel than country. It's well executed.

The Eli Young Band's "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" is another straight cover that is pointless. I'm sure Eli Young's fans will think it's great. It's not bad. It's just not anything other than a cover.

That brings us to the second really big departure from the original, Lauren Jenkins' "Looks That Kill". Lauren Jenkins has that kind of smoky Kim Carnes voice. And a definitive musical style that she does not depart from. I think this is genius. A lot of people are going to hate it. The melody is recognizable, but the instrumentation is totally divergent. This is another of my favorites.

"Live Wire" by The Cadillac Three, I hated the first time. It's grown on me, just a little bit. It's just a bit sludgy and swampy. Just the subject matter of the song, not to mention what the original was, lends itself to more energy. "Live Wire". Electricity. This was when Motley was wild, young and living free. This sounds a bit like grandpa's version of "Live Wire".

OK, so I said "Afraid" may be favorite track. The Mavericks' "Dr. Feelgood" is right there. The Mavericks take this cautionary tale from the dark alleys of Los Angeles and transport it to Miami. Musically anyway. It feels just a real as the original, but in a very different way. I really like interesting covers. This is very, very interesting. And good.

Brantley Gilbert does "Girls, Girls, Girls". Of course he does. This is a sleazy song about strip clubs. And Gilbert manages to just make it creepy and uncomfortable.

Gretchen Wilson's "Wild Side" is another straight cover. It shows that Gretchen has metal pipes on par with Lzzy Hale and Doro. Little else.

Lastly we come to "Time For Change" by Darius Rucker. Give Rucker credit, he's been doing Hootie for a long time. He gives this song the Hootie treatment. And it works. If you're a fan of Hootie and Blowfish and/or Darius Rucker, you'll like it.

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