There’s a lot to love about 23 year old Mo Pitney’s debut album Behind This Guitar. The album showcases a singer who recalls a young Gene Watson. His affinity for ballads is as strong as anyone else working in the contemporary country music world while he’s also quite adept at the tempo-filled songs favored with modern country radio. The single at the time of Behind This Guitar’s release, “Everywhere,” may be the album’s most radio-friendly track but it’s by no means any sort of disco-filed track. Instead it is a moody mid tempo ballad that recalls some of the better similar tracks from Brooks & Dunn’s catalogs.
“Boy And A Girl Thing” is a bouncy, cute former single from Mo Pitney and while radio didn’t warm up to it, fans have as it’s the second-most popular song on his album at iTunes behind lead single “Country,” a song which is itself a classic country lyric-infused hit. Genuinely starstruck when he got the chance to meet Merle Haggard, Mo chronicles the day in the charming tribute to the late legend “I Met Merle Haggard Today,” A song which sounds like both musically and vocally like a Merle song itself.
As mentioned above, Mo is quite at home on the traditional country ballads and “Behind This Guitar” has a handful of brilliant ones. “Take The Chance” is the kind of lilting ballad that country used to be spiked with. A strong lyric is married to an even better melody and vocal from Mo. “It’s Just A Dog” and “Clean Up On Aisle 5” both go for the gut and leave an impact. The former is about the relationship we have with our four-legged friends and how they become part of your life. A song about a dog? What’s more country than that? As for the latter song, it’s a song this reviewer has been familiar with for months now. The story take a familiar retail joke and turns it into a whopper of heartbreaking country music at its finest. Pitney’s vocal only enhances that heartbreak.
“Love Her Like I Love Her” and “Behind This Guitar” keep the balladry going. One more uptempo (the latter song) but they’re both more sides to Mo Pitney. “Behind This Guitar” is the autobiographical title track while “Love Her Like I Lost Her” is a ballad which is about appreciating the things in your life while there still here to appreciate. It’s about perspective. The album’s closer is the gospel ballad “Give Me Jesus,” a song that showcases Mo Pitney’s and his potential to record a whole album of hymns in the future.
One of Country Music’s most talented newcomers, Mo Pitney certainly has delivered a strong debut album. Fans longing for traditional country sounds from the likes of the artists mentioned here (and including more modern traditionalists like Joe Nichols and Alan Jackson) would do well to check out Behind This Guitar and champion an artist worthy of the kind of career his heroes have had.