Once again I'm reviewing a long-delayed album by a Curb Records artist whose career I've been following since day one: Lee Brice. Included on Love Like Crazy are his first two chart hits, "She Ain't Right" and "Happy Endings" (the #44 "Upper Middle Class White Trash" is omitted) as well as the title track. Now "She Ain't Right" and "Happy Endings" are the best pair of leading singles that I've heard from a new artist in quite some time, so I had high expectations for this album. It does not disappoint.
The album begins with what was originally to have been its title track, "Picture of Me." This is a muscular, emphatic mid-tempo that uses details such as "I ain't had a free summer since I was 10" to convey what is indeed a sharp picture of Lee Brice. Are some of the details familiar? Yes. But that's what makes them work. In fact, most of the songs are strengthened by putting sharp lyrics and arrangements to familiar ideas. "Some Things" puts its conversational verses against a soaring, gritty chorus to tell about a man with a broken heart. Although the topic of "Power of a Woman" is blatantly obvious from its title, it's lyrics like "It can make a man pick up a bottle / or help him lay it down" that make that song just as much of a winner. Same with "Beautiful Every Time," which finds the singer looking at the ocean and taking in certain scenes that are beautiful every time. It even manages to hold its theme by leading into an oceanside wedding in the second verse.
Although Lee didn't have a hand in co-writing the title track, it is just as cohesive and clear-eyed in conveying its irrefutable sentiment to "love like crazy" no matter what goes on in one's relationship. This song has been on the charts over 40 weeks now and I still haven't gotten tired of it. In fact, a very similar theme crops up in the Hammond organ-heavy "Falling Apart Together," where everyone is still together and having a good time despite empty gas tanks, broken rabbit ears and flashlight dinners in the dark.
The only other cut without Brice's name on it is his debut single, "She Ain't Right," which is a Neil Thrasher/Wendell Mobley/Michael Dulaney collaboration. With lines like "sometimes her mouth could use a filter / God shook His head the day He built her," this song is yet another interesting vignette, this time of a rebellious girl who is "just right" for the narrator. In fact, she just might be the same girl who sent a shiver up and down his spine in "Beautiful Every Time," and the same girl whom he's nibble-kissing in the sultry waltz "These Last Few Days." As rowdy as he is, Brice comes across just as convincingly when he's playing the romantic.
In a three-track stretch, the album gets cranked up to 11 with a trifecta of punchy up-tempos with a common theme. First is "Sumter County Friday Night," which uses local details such as Sparkleberry swamp with sprinkles of more obvious details such as red dirt roads and Dairy Queen parking lots to paint a picture of a boisterous Friday Night that sounds, well, like a lot of fun! That tune is followed by "Carolina Boys," a catchy, rapid-fire lyric where the Carolina boys indeed get rowdy and loud while competing for the same girl. Keeping the theme for a third consecutive track, "Four on the Floor" is a thumping, Trace Adkins-esque groove about, well, loud music and cars. It's really just a "get up and dance" song, but it does its purpose to the letter.
"Happy Endings" closes out the album with another scene centered around one brokenhearted man whose girl has left and is just hoping that she'll come back. After all, "it's a long, long way from Myrtle Beach to LA / Anything could change her mind." It's a very strong close to the album, although it's a total shame that this song only managed a #32 peak.
Love Like Crazy is certainly a loud album: the guitars and drums are up front and crunchy, and Brice's slightly grained voice really gets to soar on quite a few songs (such as "Love Like Crazy"). At times, it comes across as more Southern rock than country, but no matter what's going on in the rather loud tracks, Brice's irrefutable singing and songwriting talents come through clearly. Interwoven themes such as love and rural pride cross over from track to track, maintaining an excellent level of cohesion. Love Like Crazy was well worth the wait; let's just hope it doesn't take another three years for the next album.