Album Review: Jimmie Allen - "Bettie James Gold Edition"

Grammy Best New Artist nominee and ACM Awards co-host showcases collaborative streak on sophomore release for BBR/Stoney Creek Records.

Where other’s have ebbed, Jimmie Allen has flowed. And it’s largely paid off. Take, for example, Bettie James, the 7 track EP -- named for his father and grandmother -- which has been expanded here (as Bettie James Gold Edition) to a 16 track album featuring collaborations from a who’s who of modern country music, pop, R&B and hiphop. It might be an unexpected turn to make for an artist making only their second full-length album, but it is an unexpected turn that actually cements what I’ve thought of Jimmie Allen since I first got a chance to hear and see him play: The man is a superstar.

That superstar gets Keith Urban, Pitfall, Nelly, Darius Rucker, Tim McGraw, Babyface, Monica, Charley Pride, Tauren Wells, Little Big Town, Mickey Guyton and Brad Paisley (among others) to join him on these sixteen songs and the last one, “Freedom Was A Highway,” with Brad Paisley hit the top of the charts just as Jimmie was announced as a Best New Artist Grammy Award nominee, ACM Male Artist of the Year and ACM Awards co-host with Dolly Parton and Gabby Barrett.

With the 80s rock melody pulsating underneath the vocals from Jimmie and Brad Paisley, it’s easy to see how this nostalgic confection became the smash country music hit it is. The lyrics are immensely relatable and it just sounds so good coming out of a car’s speakers. Another song with a similar feel is “Boy Gets a Truck,” this one (co-written by Jimmie’s manager Ash Bowers and Aaron Scherz) has a good story in that it was first recorded by Keith Urban for his Fuse album and later, again, by Jimmie on his first album Mercury Lane. Now, the song is a proper duet between the two who recorded it and there is a future for it at radio if they decide to release it.

In reality, there are several songs on Bettie James Gold Edition that could be considered songs to released to radio from “Get Country” (with Locash) to “Home Sweet Hometown” (with LANCO), Good Times Roll (with Nelly), and Livin’ Man, a song featuring Neon Union, a new duo that is now backed and managed by a company founded by Jimmie. Other newer artist garnering attendon on this album include “teamwork.” and Vikina, a rising star in the Urban Latin market.

Superstars Babyface and Monica join Jimmie on two of the musical intimate moments on the record, ‘Face duets on the romantic themed “Forever” while Monica joins for the spiritual “Pray.” The latter also includes the iconic harmonies of Little Big Town. Mickey Guyton’s star has continued to rise on a similar trajectory as Jimmie’s since they recorded “Drunk And I Miss You” and that one feels like it could be a big hit, too, if it were released to radio as a proper single on the country radio charts. There’s a darkly kinetic energy to it that recalls “Need You Now” and other late night ‘booty call’ songs but, like “Need You Now,” the song benefits from the dynamic chemistry of the emotive vocalists.

Tim McGraw’s contribution with Jimmie, “Made For These” is a brilliantly-written song about the path we take in life and that everything happens for a reason, a theme which follows through on “Why Things Happen,” a song with three generations of country music superstars in Charley Pride, Darius Rucker, and Jimmie Allen.

With two platinum chart toppers from his first album already in Jimmie’s pocket, it would’ve been easy for his record label (and manager) to tell Jimmie to keep on the same path but instead, they let their star find a way to be himself even more so than he ever was before. Ironically, by allowing Jimmie to collaborate with stars from multiple genres, BBR/Stoney Creek was putting a great faith in their rising star and it’s a faith that’s been rewarded with a cohesive collection of great songs where the connective thread for every song is the star turn from Jimmie Allen himself.