On the whole, us Brits aren’t really into country music, in fact we’d rather have a bottle of southern bourbon than play a country record. Certainly it is a different matter for our buddies on the other side of the Atlantic, country music being their native musical tongue. It may be that Big & Rich’s debut album, with a diverse concoction of rock ‘n’ roll, pop, and even rap, may conjure up enough interest, to make an impact on this little island.
Big & Rich are ex-Lonestar vocalist John Rich and songwriter Big Kenny who formed in Nashville in 1998. They played jam sessions, dubbed Muzik Mafia, in a Nashville bar called the Pub Of Love which garnered much enthusiasm for the pair. In 2003 Martina McBride covered She’s A Butterfly, which was a song penned by Big and Rich after meeting a teenage girl suffering from brain cancer.
The noticeable talents and chemistry of Big & Rich, along with the success of the Muzik Mafia sessions helped the country music duo land a record deal with Warner Bros, Nashville. Big & Rich premiered in February 2004 with the Wild West single and this album has thus far sold over one million copies in the US.
The fun – well maybe that’s not the right word – begins with Rollin’ (The Ballad Of Big & Rich) which proclaims that they will give us “music without prejudice”. Fair enough, John Rich is a talented singer with a typical, sweet, flowing, melodic country voice, and the arrangements of the instruments work well enough. That doesn’t mean they to include so many contrasting styles of music though – much of this song, including the lyrics, actually sounds pretty damn preposterous. Who would have imagined a rapper in the middle of a seemingly normal contemporary country song?
Wild West Show is a standout track on the album, it’s a sweet, tuneful and free-flowing number that moves along with little interference. Big Time is an irritating old school country track (complete with a violin) while Kick My Ass follows the same old path, but having more fun along the way. Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy) has a contagious chorus but that’s it, yet Holy Water is actually a rather touching ballad.
Big & Rich can harmonize very well together, sometimes evoking the magnificent harmonies of early Queen, such as on Live This Life with Martina McBride. Much of the problem on the album are the lyrics, which are mostly hampered by clich�s and hare-brained one liners.
Horse Of A Different Colour is raucous, mindless, camp and most certainly a kitsch invention. Hardcore country music fans will either love it for trying to bring back country music to the masses and overseas charts, or loathe it for challenging highly-revered conventions.
They have added their own style to an old and tired musical style and at times it works. On its first listen, Horse Of A Different Colour is reasonably amusing and good fun but unfortunately after a couple of hearings, it quickly deteriorates into a nauseating mess – it may be that this is country music with a little too much attitude.