There was a time when country music was an anomaly to itself. The current musical climate did little to change the sounds of the records coming out of Nashville. As we know, that shifted in the early 1990s, and judging by the albums being produced today, has been expedited to its fullest level.
Exhibit A: Keith Urban’s eight studio album, Fuse.
Flipping through the liner notes reveals a subtle but stark realization of what Urban has produced: there are no steel guitar credits, limited fiddle playing, and an abundance of program tracking, meaning that a computer gets the credit. The album itself feels more like f.u.n. or Justin Timberlake than, say, Urban’s 2002 effort Golden Road; but I try not to review albums on what they aren’t but rather what they are, and what Fuse presents is a remarkable step forward in Urban’s artistic personality.
This album is decidedly uncomfortable for Urban – no other work in his repertoire seems to be reflected here. But that’s what makes this album brilliant. He has pushed his own boundaries to the convergence of The Eagles, U2, Waylon Jennings, and Mumford and Sons. Songs like “Somewhere in My Car,” “Shame on Me,” and “Little Bit of Everything” highlight the divergence in sound and rhythm on Fuse. Each track is unique to itself, taking the listener into a new awareness of the possibilities in Urban’s musical Pandora’s box.
Does that sound overly metaphorical? Perhaps that’s the point.
But Urban fans will be tickled to hear very Urban-sounding guitar licks throughout the album. And the singer has lost none of his vocal ability in the time burning up the globe on the stage. “Good Thing,” sure to be a summer jam come July 2014, highlights Urban’s staying qualities. And he flexes his unusual mastery of the falsetto on “She’s Mine 11.” Speaking of sure-fire hits, check out the marvelously sensual Miranda Lambert on “We Were Us” and country bad-boy Eric Church on “Raise ‘Em Up,” a song about raising your glass and raising your kids.
What is surprising is the lack of writing credits by the singer. Stories like “Cop Car” and “Come Back to Me” are left to others; that’s not to say that Urban’s pen is completely lost. He has six co-writing credits and co-produced the whole album.
In an age when track sales mean more than album sales, it’s not surprising that Urban has pasted together thirteen tracks that, when played together, take a listener on a fuse lit journey through Urban’s musical paradise but don’t thread a common needle. But take a chance and light the fuse. Whether this album will an anomaly or a new norm is yet to be seen, but it’s an impressive statement about the beauty and boundaries of music by Nashville’s most clever artist.
Recommended tracks: “Cop Car,” “We Were Us,” “Heart Like Mine”
Click here to enter to win an autographed copy of Keith Urban’s Fuse.