I guess, if you’re going to do it, then now is a good time for it.
In the modern age, when music is all Spotify Playlists and social media driven, it takes proper bravery to stick out a double album with 30 songs on. It is a “Dangerous” tactic you might say, even, but if it is, no one told Morgan Wallen.
Wallen is a genuine star back home. A star of reality TV, he then promptly went to number one with his debut record, even his presence in an Alabama Bar back in October was national news (and meant that he had to postpone an appearance on Saturday Night Live).
This though, this record, is evidence he is not hype. Let’s get this said from the off. Morgan Wallen is a supremely talented singer/songwriter (a fair phrase as he co-writes more than half of these) and this album is an incredible example of a record that is equal parts arena rock, Americana, and Eric Church style country pop.
In truth he’s both whatever he wants to be, and whatever you want it to be at the same time – because whatever you like about “southern” sounds are here. The opener on disc one “Sand In My Boots” has a real feel of The Eagles, and whilst I don’t want this review to be a list of song titles, then the fact he follows it up with “Wasted On You” – a real pop song from the Chase Rice playbook – is all you need to know about “Dangerous.”
It’s like the best compilation record you ever heard. The one you’d give to people to get them into a genre. Except this is by one guy.
Broadly speaking, these are tales from the small towns, “Somebody’s Problem” is one of the boy meets girl ones, “More Surprised Than Me” is one of the ones about being Southern and not believing you’ve got the girl, “865” is one of the ones about losing the girl.
You get the point by now, but “Dangerous” is more than this. “Warning” is the kind of pop that X-ambassadors do, and there’s something understated and superb about “Neon Eyes”.
Everything here is on point – and that includes the special guests. Ben Burgess is a welcome presence on the harmony laden “Outlaw” and Chris Stapleton proves his amazing talent once more on “Only Thing That’s Gone” – which is a real highlight, not just of the first half but the whole thing.
Each of the sides have their own gems though. The laid back, reflective “7 Summers”, or the quirky “More Than My Hometown” are fabulous slices of what appears to be reality.
And side two, which opens with “Still Goin’ Down” – the type of thing that TC3 made a career out of – is more of the same, in truth, but that’s not a criticism. Rather the opposite.
“Red Necks, Red Letters, Red Dirt” is a love letter to the home state, effectively, and when it grooves, it grooves. “Beer Don’t” is going to be the soundtrack to the Good Ol’ Boys night out when they can have them, “Somethin’ Country” is exactly what I am here for. The country that sells the hillbilly dream to blokes like me who live in Middle UK not middle America.
There’s a self confidence about this, and a sleazy side to “Country A$$ Shit” which feels like it should have girls on dancing on poles everywhere, and “Whatcha Think Of Country Now” is a massive middle finger to those who aren’t down.
But, honestly, whatever this does it is genuinely brilliant. Well put together, polished, classy. “Silverado For Sale” is a hymn to the truck (and there’s always one on these albums) and “Livin’ The Dream” has a funky side, but seems from the heart and “Quittin’ Time” strips down to the bare-bones and even in this more fragile state, there’s a real contentment.
And that comes, surely, from the fact that everyone here knows how good this is. I’ll be honest: Double album, I thought. Yeah that’s going to have about 10 songs on it you don’t need. Think Guns N Roses, “Use Your Illusion” or those Springsteen ones that came out the same day. Not here. “Dangerous” is not just seriously consistent, its seriously good.