From the first moment I heard the pure joy of this album's “Praise The Lord” from Breland, I was looking forward to the day that he would release his whole album. September 9, 2022 was that day and Breland's debut, Cross Country, is one diverse project.
In an ever expanding genre, it’s definitely time that an artist like Breland comes through the doors. Blending the rich vocal dexterity of artists like Gary LeVox (Rascal Flatts) and Shay Mooney (Dan & Shay) with his diverse set of influences, Breland comes at us with the aptly titled Cross Country. It’s an album full of bangers like the aforementioned “Praise The Lord” and “Throw It Back” and collaborations with artists like Thomas Rhett, Lady A, Keith Urban, Ingrid Andress and Mickey Guyton but for as much as those songs sparkle with the guests, even within them, they shine most when Breland is at the front.
With his infectious spirit, Breland breezes through jams like “Natural” (which incorporates the instrumental back track of Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!’” into this brand new song), “Praise The Lord,” “Throw It Back” and “County Line” with all the effortless charm needed firs such songs while “Here For It” with Ingrid Andress is one of the best “platonic friend” songs that I’ve heard, maybe ever. It’s just about friends always showing up in someone’s time of need.
For all of his success outside of country radio, Breland hasn’t yet truly explored success in those waters yet that’s set to change with “For What It’s Worth” and upon multiple listens to this track, most before the news broke that it was the single for radio airplay, it feels like the perfect choice for that medium. There’s a harmonic chorus with ear worm properties and an honesty in the lyric of a man who has seen the err of his ways and he tells his ex that, even that he knows she’s moved on too. “Happy Song” is a good partner track, playing right after “For What It’s Worth” on the album with melodic vocal verse hits the tempo change of the chorus where the very real “this used to be our song” feeling is gone when he hears the song now, post-breakup.
Giving off an acoustic pop/americana vibe, “Growning Pains” is the kind of song that could be a hit on multiple formats while “Thick” is straight up a “country trap” song about how much Breland enjoys curvy women. And they’re paired with the Keith Urban collaboration “Throw It Back” as a handful of just fun songs.
The final four tracks of the album’s 14 tracks certainly close the album on a high note. First there’s the reworking of the EP favorite “Cross Country” into this album’s title track featuring kindred sprit Mickey Guyton on a song with very real message about forging your own lane in the world and learning that you will never be who you weren’t meant to be if you don’t accept yourself and that your own lane “doing what they say can’t be done” is where you belong. You don’t have to prove anyone anything except to yourself. The next song, “Good For You” finds Breland showcasing, truly showcasing his vocal chops with a lyric about a man who can do everything except be the man that the woman in a faltering relationship needs and that he’s come to terms with that as he goes inside of himself to not hold grudges and to “Love her is to let her go.” It’s a beautiful song and one he certainly needs to bring out to in the round songwriter performances.
With a melody that feels like an homage to Rufus featuring Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good”, “Don’t Look At Me” has the kind of slinky, sensual melody and lyric that just feels great to my ears. The album closer “Alone At The Ranch” is a classic piece of “baby makin’” music, (y’know a classic R&B slow jam), this one a countrified one, if only in lyric.
And that’s what makes Breland a breath of fresh air. He’s versatile enough to sing comfortably in any genre yet he’s chosen his own path in modern country music, a genre where he can sing and write about stories that are more authentic to who he is and wants to be, even if he’s from the Garden State. Cross Country is an exciting debut from an artist who should be a major star if this record is to be any indication of star talent.