Musically, Devin Dawson stretches the definition of country, due to the many pop elements that drive Dark Horse. Dawson earns grace points, however, for his winning, vulnerable vocal style.
One called “Asking for A Friend,” which Dawson also helped write, uses wit to express affection. The title cut, though, saves best for last. Over a moody melody, Dawson sings what adds up to his own modern take on Johnny Cash’s “Man in Black.”
Many of these songs are strong, and one is left wondering what they might have sounded like had Dawson kept it country. “Prison,” which uses incarceration language to describe a romance gone bad, might have worked equally well as a stripped-down country ballad.
One can easily imagine many of these twelve tracks [on Dark Horse] being played on pop radio. This is a compliment, in one sense, because they feature sharp, contemporary sonic elements. It’s a bit of a downer, though, as we would only know it’s country because it’s labeled as such. Dawson’s voice is special, and one we’d love to hear singing real country one day.