When Charlie Worsham sings about Mississippi in July, in a mid-tempo song of the same name, he knows exactly what he’s talking about. This talented new country singer was born in Jackson, Mississippi.
The music Worsham makes is by no means Mississippi Delta sounds, though. He’s Country all the way, with enough pop sheen to attract radio airplay, but not so much that it scares off purists. For instance, the song “Mississippi In July” sounds a little like a Country version Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer.” That’s a fair analogy because Henley’s solo pop music of the 80s is what a lot of today’s “Country” music sounds like.
Although Rubberband is Worsham’s debut album, he’s also attracted a few A-list performers to help him out with it. Both Vince Gill and Marty Stuart contribute to “Tools of the Trade,” a song about the specialized music business skill set.
As solid as Rubberband is, Worsham still sounds like he’s working to develop his own voice in a few places. The slow, yearning “You Can’t Break What’s Broken,” for example, has a Dierks Bentley hit written all over it, while the banjo that underpins the rocking country of “Want Me Too” makes it a little too much like a typical Keith Urban song. Lastly, “Someone Like Me” veers close to U2’s Joshua Tree music back in the 80s with its echoing – albeit the acoustic kind – guitar work.
Worsham shines brightest during this album’s title cut. Built upon a swampy, bluesy groove, mixed with propulsive banjo, it’s a track that simply feels good. And while Worsham proves to be quite accomplished at performing ‘feel good’ songs, he gets deadly serious with “How I Learned to Pray.” This song has the sort of message everybody can relate to. The point being lessons in praying isn’t always taught on pews beneath steeples. Instead, life lessons are the greatest prayer professors. Just as they say there are no atheists in foxholes, there are few non-pray-ers to be found in stressful situations. You learn how to pray pretty quick once the heavy pressure’s put on.
As a vocalist, Worsham leans closer to the Blake Shelton/Keith Urban model than, say, the low voiced types, such as Trace Adkins. He sings with a high, pure voice that would also sound really great on bluegrass harmonies – if he ever decides to go that route.
Rubberband is not an instant classic. Nevertheless, in the places where it’s good, it’s really good. The listener is left with the impression that once Worsham settles upon a distinctive voice that separates him from a few of his more obvious musical heroes, he may just become something truly special. He certainly chooses quality songs to sing, and knows how to compile an album with more than enough variety to stay interesting.
The best thing about Rubberband is that, no matter how much it rocks, it never sounds like rock music in a country boy’s clothing. Instead, Worsham is a country boy, through and through, and not an inner rock & roller merely using country music to get his foot in the music business door. This means Rubberband stretches him in all the right directions.