It’s not often that a young artist comes along and feels like he’s been here a long time but that’s exactly the vibe that comes through the speakers (or earbuds) when listening to Cory Keefe’s debut I’ll Keep It Country. Blending a vocal style with equal parts Whitley, Singletary, Diffie and Nichols, Cory Keefe comes out sounding uniquely himself with a commitment to, as the album title says, “Keep(ing the music) Country.
There are vocal notes that bend in the best of ways on the heartfelt love song “She Calls Me Cowboy” while the title track’s storyteller vibe recalls classics of the past. And that’s something that often happens throughout the glorious baker’s dozen tracks featured on I’ll Keep It Country. “Young Man Old” feels like the kind of classic song in waiting and showcases how much Cory Keefe can make a song his own. I have heard the songwriter’s (Justin Chambers) own version and when mixed with the A-list players and Buddy Hyatt’s production, Cory really takes the tune into a new stratosphere, something the best of vocalists are able to do. This is evidenced as well on first single “Where There’s A Beer, There’s A Way” the kind of song that used to be played on country radio time and time again throughout the past 40 years while “Till Now” is also one that fits this bill too.
Cory does take on a couple classic songs originally performed by some of the guys mentioned above. All are standouts and it’s a move that has often happened on debut albums in the UK and in country music’s past but rarely happens now. It is with these songs (“Going Home,”That’s Where I Want To Take Our Love,” “Brotherly Love” and “I Just Want You”) that we hear what a great singer Cory Keefe is, the kind of singer we need more of in country music. Two of these songs are duets, one with Lorrie Morgan on the duet “I Just Want You,” a song which came about because of Cory’s appearance on a Keith Whitley tribute show a couple of years back, and “Brotherly Love” is a duet with his twin brother Dustin Keefe. It’s a sweet take on the classic Keith Whitley & Earl Thomas Conley duet.
The thirteen songs (nearly every one from A-list songwriters) selected on I’ll Keep It Country are a great introduction into who Cory Keefe is as an artist and the very bright future he has. George Jones used to ask in his song “Whose Gonna Fill Their Shoes” and I think that Cory Keefe is one such choice as he is clearly "The Truth."