Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sam Hunt: Southside [MCA Nashville, 2020]
"Body like a back road/Could drive it with my eyes closed/I know every curve like the back of my hand/Doin' 15 in a 30/I ain't in no hurry/Ima take it slow just as fast as I can"? Even if you think this chorus is too overt, somehow, don't be so dense as to deny how casually it cherishes the American vernacular that imbues great pop songwriting from Irving Berlin to Jay-Z in a Nashville dialect that recalls John Prine--"15 in a 30" my favorite touch, "drive it with my eyes closed" the runner-up, and both were number one on country radio for seven months. This way with words should have stood out more as of Hunt's superb 2014 "Take Your Time," but back then he was so set on bigging up his material with studio-enhanced drums that they often got lost. Dialed back, thankfully, those drums are still with him, but the words prevail from the bereft contrition of "2016" to a heartbroken "Drinkin' Too Much" sent to heaven by a "How Great Thou Art" chorus pecked note-by-note on piano by his beloved regained. My personal favorite is "Sinning With You" even though or because I was pushing 30 before I got to sin with another ex-Christian myself. A-