It’s been an interesting ride for Jerrod Niemann so far in his career. After a three album spell with Sea Gayle Records/Arista Nashville, Niemann joined the rejuvenated Curb Records last year and instantly got to work on the album we have here, This Ride. Once again working with session ace Jimmy Lee Sloas as his co-producer, Jerrod blends the traditions he has an encyclopedic knowledge of with the sounds that make the album wholly modern in sonic scope without sacrificing the history of country music.
Opener “Zero To Crazy” finds Niemann singing about the kind of woman who ends up coming to Nashville on bachelorette parties. The kind of woman who lets loose when having a good time. There’s a kinetic energy to the production which makes it the perfect opener for This Ride. Another song with a groove to its melody is the sing-a-long ready “I Got This.” Written by Rodney Clawson, Luke Dick, and Josh Osborne, “I Got This” is radio ready and recalls the early hits from Jerrod’s career (A blend of “Lover Lover” and “What Do You Want,” perhaps) while not being out of pace with what's cool at this moment. It’s about a confident guy looking to make his move and the song just has a unique overall feel. “But I Do” too has a melodic hook that gets stuck in your brain. Jimmy Robbins and Jon Nite co-wrote it with Josh Osborne and while it could’ve had huge loopy production, Jerrod and Jimmy decided to ground the song in actual instruments which back up oh so relatable lyrics about falling in love with someone who doesn’t love you back. “Comeback” and “Whiskey’s Waitin’ On Ice” feel ready for air too with their relatable stories and melodies.
“The Regulars” is the kind of southern rock leaning country song that became a staple on radio a few years ago and it’s a song that I can relate to as a regular of a local bar. It’s a great, relatable sing-a-long ready song. Diamond Rio joins Jerrod Niemann for a great 90s throwback with “I Ain’t There.” It has the band’s trademark harmonies and a solo from the band’s guitarist Jimmy Oleandar. Paired with single “God Made A Woman,” we have perhaps the most ‘traditional’ songs on the record but closer and title track “This Ride” feels like the most-important song on the album. It’s about enjoying the moment with someone you love. The melody recalls the melodies found on Keith Urban’s Ripcord. It’s modern, traditional and retro 80s cool all in one.
And that’s what’s great about This Ride. It’s a cohesive collection of country music circa 2017. There are sounds which are more modern than others but nothing feels outta place here. The songs all play a part in making the album a complete work, the kind of work we’ve been waiting to hear from Jerrod Niemann and clearly the best release of his career to date.