Album Review: Joe Nichols - “Good Day For Living”

It’s been a hot minute since Joe Nichols has released an album for country fans to devour but the time has been good to Nichols as he’s chosen a group of songs (including the hit title track) that prove the time was well spent.

Throughout his career, Joe Nichols has consistently delivered albums that really speak to the country listener. Like Ronnie Milsap, Joe Nichols has an ear for material which suits his country baritone and while there are some stylistic diversions every now and then, he has weathered the ebb and flow of the mainstream country scene for over twenty years now. Now signed to Quartz Hill Records — where he joined a label team previously with him at Broken Bow Music Group’s RedBow Records — Joe’s back in radio’s Top 20 charts with “Good Day For Living.” That song is his 20th single of his career to hit the Top 20 and if the songs on the rest of this album — also named Good Day For Living — do what they should, well, it won’t be Joe Nichols last trip into the Top 20.

That title track’s melody comes through with so much joyful noise that it’s easy to see why the track has become a hit. The lyrics from writers Dave Cohen, Neil Mason (of The Cadillac Three) and Bobby Hamrick are as joyful as the melody. It’s an easy, breezy track filled with love and hope and peace and deserves to become an even bigger hit, if at all possible. The funky melody of “Screened In” celebrates life as much as “Good Day For Living” bout does it in a different way with rock guitars and steel guitars accenting Nichols’ singing of the lyrics (Tony Martin, Neil Thrasher) which continue the overall theme of enjoying life to its fullest. “I Got Friends That Do” feels like it’s ripped right outta 2005 sonically and lyrically but that’s no slight for another of the album’s great take life by the horns and live it themes. This one features Blake Shelton who sounds like he’s having a blast singing this with Joe. If I were Quartz Hill Records, I’d talk with Warner Music Nashville to see if they couldn’t release this one as the follow-up single to radio. It just feels like it belongs on people’s radios.

The sensual country soul of Ronnie Milsap (yes, a second reference) comes through on “I Wanna Be Your Tonight.” There’s also moments of Gene Watson in Nichols’ vocal phrasing (always has been there too). Written by veteran hitmakers Marv Green (“Amazed”), Phil O’Donnell (“Give It All We Got Tonight”) and Wade Kirby (“I Saw God Today”), the song finds a man wishing to be with the woman of his dreams for the evening and through it all he lets her lead the way, he just wants to be along for wherever that night leads. On the other side of this coin is the guy whose lost that woman and he’s hoping, praying, wishing, there’s a way to redemption with her where she’ll hear his pleas on “Why Can’t She.” The Adam Craig, Jon Nite and Matt Rodgers co-write pulls on the right agonizing strings.

Like any country album worth its salt, Good Day For Living features a bit of nostalgic longing (“That’s How I Grew Up,” “Home Run”), a danceable waltz (“One Two Step Closer”), blind faith of the woman coming back into his life (“Reckon”), and a song dealing with the ending of life and how he hopes people celebrate his life (“Hawaii On Me”). Fans of Mark Chesnutt may recall his 2002 hit “She Was” And Joe has chosen to record the song and add it as the closer to this record. He’s done a great job in conveying the emotion of the song. Even choosing a past hit like this to feature on your album is a long held tradition in country music album making and it’s cool to see Joe Nichols continuing to honor that tradition.

It’s been five years since Joe Nichols released an album and it’s only his third release this past decade, but if the time he takes to make records is reflected in the quality of the songs he’s presented on them, well, that means he’s doing the right thing (Even in a streaming world of releasing new song after new song after new song). Joe Nichols is one of the best contemporary country music vocalists and has released some of country music’s best hits and albums.