“I’m dustin’ off hank and I’m puttin’ him on, I’m gonna drink one and listen to a country song, the way it sounded in 1952, I’m taking some old things and making them new.” That’s the first verse and it leads Joe into a beautifully reflective ballad about revisiting old friends, old music, and old memories and transforming them into new friends, news music and new memories. For any younger fans wondering what country music felt or sounded like before a pop explosion, Old Things New is a fine example. The fun “Man. Woman” is another reflection of traditional-leaning country music and in a playful voice Joe Nichols sings about the way a woman who ‘messed him up’ and ‘made him cry.’ This is the kind of song that George Strait has routinely taken to the top of the charts so hopefully it will become a standard thing for Joe as well.
The first single “Believers” is completely informed in Joe’s transformation to sobriety as it talks about those special people in your life who give you faith and hope and love in the toughest times in life. The song may not have done as well as Joe hoped but it is still a solid song about strength and belief. “Gimme That Girl” may have the scent of a firmly modern country song but with that voice there’s hardly anything that Joe Nichols could sing that could be confused with anything but a country music song. It’s a song that anybody in love can appreciate as it talks about the day to day mundane things that make you appreciate the one you love.
Jamey Johnson’s humorous “Cheaper Than A Shrink” is country yet is also very fun as Joe sings that very drinkin’ song that relates to the younger version of himself just as “The Shape I’m In” also reflects a part on Joe’s life yet on this song it finds Joe able to enjoy life saying “it ain’t much but it beats where I’ve been.” Country artist Colt Ford joins Joe on a bonus-track reprise of “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” and while the song isn’t gonna suit everybody, it’s fun and the spoken word artist injects a little different flavor to a song well-known to country fans.
Perhaps the most important song on Old Things New is “An Old Friend of Mine” (watch video here). The song was recorded in one take with the brilliant Gordon Mote providing the backdrop melody with his graceful piano notes. The song is about a man who takes one last drink before getting sober. This song, like the majority of Old Things New is sung with the passion of a man who has lived the life that the characters in his songs have. Rather than get preachy, he gets introspective while also not abandoning his playful side. If Old Things New reflects the direction that Joe Nichols is headed with his career, than I’m sure that country music fans, particularly traditional country music fans, are more than happy that Joe Nichols is free and clear from the demons of his past and is living and breathing life in a way that he never has before. There’s no doubt in my mind that Old Things New is one of 2009’s best album releases.
Joe Nichols has created a website (click to view) with The Hope Line to give those who are struggling with addiction a place to reach out.