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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Billy Ray Cyrus CD Review: Just What You Would Expect

“Back to Tennessee” is a fitting title for Billy Ray Cyrus’ new CD as the theme of home and family resonates throughout the album.

And when Cyrus sticks to those themes and the sound he knows, the album works. It’s when he tries to be someone else that it starts to falter…

The album kicks off with the title track and current single, which can also be found on the soundtrack for “Hannah Montana: The Movie.” Cyrus co-wrote the song when he realized the movie would be filmed in Tennessee and the soaring chorus works well with the longing for home theme of the song.

“Thrillbilly” is a more nitty-gritty country song that works well for Cyrus’ voice, as is “He’s Mine,” if we actually heard his voice. With his pronunciations of words like “holler” and “beer bottle,” he sounds like he’s trying to impersonate Trace Adkins or someone like him when he really should just be himself.

The CD gets back on track, though, with the CD’s first single, “Somebody Said a Prayer,” which really should have been a bigger hit than it was. The song, with its “Jesus Take the Wheel” storytelling, is perfect for Cyrus and it fits his voice well.

“A Good Day” and “I Could Be the One” are two uptempo songs that fit Cyrus like a glove, even though part of you wishes he would stretch it just a little.

Thankfully he does that with “Like Nothing Else” which has a nice adult contemporary feel to it.

But he gets right back to the country with “Country As Country Can Be.” However, unlike “He’s Mine,” Cyrus chooses to use his voice as opposed to trying to put on someone else’s, so it’s a little more successful, although I’ve never been a big fan of slow honkytonk songs.

Lucky for me, Cyrus doesn’t stay slow long as he rocks it out on “Love Is the Lesson.” The song’s verses are great, but the chorus falls apart just a little.

But after some serious rockin’, it’s back to the ballads with “Give It To Somebody,” co-written by Jeffrey Steele (“What Hurts the Most”), who was a judge on the last season of “Nashville Star,” which Cyrus hosted. The lyrics, “What good is all the good you’re gettin ‘til you give it to somebody” lend themselves to a super catchy chorus.

Then it’s “Real Gone,” the remake of the Sheryl Crow song from “Cars,” which Cyrus recorded for “Country Sings Disney.” I still say his version is better than the original, so I’m glad it’s included here.

The album concludes on a really high note with “Butterfly Fly Away,” Cyrus’ duet with his daughter Miley from the “Hannah” movie soundtrack. The song is gorgeous and the duo sound great together. It’s a perfect way to conclude the CD.

In all honesty, there really aren’t that many surprises here as Cyrus pretty much delivers what you would expect. But in this case, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Especially when what you would expect is a pretty good country CD. Granted, it could use a few tweaks here and there, but overall it’s another solid effort that his fans will be proud to add to their collections.

“Back to Tennessee” is available now…

Photo Credit: Lyric Street Records