High Noon

by: Jerrod Niemann

Jerrod Niemann freed the music on his second album but the music found no home. Compared to his 2010 debut, which topped Billboard's Country Albums charts on the strength of the doo wop swing of "Lover, Lover," the 2012 sophomore set sank without a hit single to its name. Some critics loved Niemann's willingness to be weird, but reviews don't sell records, so the singer decided to straighten up and fly right for 2014's High Noon. Here, the hints of hip-hop are streamlined -- they're present in the novelty "Donkey" and a cameo by country rapper Colt Ford on the closing "She's Fine" -- and when Niemann sings "in the country/we know how to rock," he's not conjuring the ghost of Waylon Jennings or attempting to run with renowned outsider Eric Church, he's as happy and sunny as the laid-back dudes of Florida Georgia Line. Despite the cowboy stance of its title, there isn't much swagger on High Noon: it's all slick, smooth, and rather slow; so mellow that even the odes to "Day Drinkin'" and "Beach Baby" barely quicken the pulse. Niemann acquits himself well, sounding soulful on the blues crawl of "The Real Thing," doing his best Luke Bryan on "Drink to That All Night," and navigating the adult contemporary turns of "Space" with aplomb. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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