After two years, Garth Brooks returns with his brand new album Gunslinger. The album is “stupid fun,” as Brooks states. It’s full of new anthems, ballads and concert staples, and will sure to please your ears. “Here it is, the only album in my entire career that is pretty much ‘all Garth.’ I really hope you like it,” Brooks states in the booklet.
The album was originally planned for fall 2015, but after several delays, it’ll be released on its own on Black Friday, November 25th. However, fans who purchase The Ultimate Collection Target exclusive box set will get the project two weeks early. It contains two bonus tracks and the Limited First Edition cover. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have its own booklet and doesn’t include any typical album credits or lyrics. It’s just a single double-sided sleeve with the song titles. Kind of disappointing for a Limited First Edition version.
The music on Gunslinger is excellent. From the opening country two-steppin’ “Honky-Tonk Somewhere” to the “Friends In Low Places” remake with George Strait, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line (F/G Line) and Keith Urban, there isn’t a bad song on the project. The “Friends” remake doesn’t live up the hype and surely could’ve done without F/G Line, but it’s nice to finally hear it.
The album opens up with the old school sounding “Honky-Tonk Somewhere.” It’s very Brad Paisley-esque with the guitar picking that is played throughout. It’s a bonafide country boogie and is a great start to the album. “Weekend” is another feel good uptempo track with a cool keyboard intro that has a beachy feel. If released as a single, it could be Brooks’ first number one since 2007.
“Ask Me How I Know” is a slower track with an acoustic guitar intro that builds as the song progresses. A nice ballad that could perform well live. “Baby, Let’s Lay Down In Dance” is the first single and has a longer breakdown in the middle. It’s a nice play on words for sex.
“He Really Loves You” is a nice power ballad that has a unique sound. It’s slower and haunting and feels like it combines a few different time signatures but stays common throughout. Brooks sings of a man’s love for his woman and that he’d do anything for her.
Anyone who’s heard Brooks’ SiriusXM Ryman show was introduced to “Whiskey To Wine,” a new duet with wife Trisha Yearwood. The song was performed live with Brooks, Yearwood and a single acoustic guitar. Here, we finally hear the full song and it doesn’t disappoint. The arrangement may get some taking used to as it’s a bit more driving than the live version. Also, the drums play six-eight on the verses and then jump to a waltz on the choruses. However, both singers are spot on and accompany each other pleasantly.
“Bang Bang” is a smashing uptempo rocker that drives hard. It’s a nice fun tune, but is a bit childish with the lyrics. I still like it though and will probably add it to my iPhone.
“Pure Adrenaline” is another hard rocking uptempo track that would be awesome live. It could easily replace “Man Against Machine” as the concert opener and jump right into “Rodeo.” The song is currently the theme for CBS Saturday Game of the Week football coverage with alternate heard lyrics each week. The track is one of my favorites and is in line with previous rockers he’s recorded.
“8teen” is a fun acoustic-based mid tempo track that is full of hidden meanings related to Brooks. Fans would have to dig deep and dissect the lyrics to figure out many of the themes. It may be easier with a lyrics sheet, but there are some fun play on words that include “Thunder Rolls” and “Rodeo.” The instrumentation is reminiscent to “Much To Young” from Brooks’ debut album with fiddle and steel throughout.
“Sugarcane” is another rocker with a big intro and wordy lyrics. Brooks sings of how a woman’s love is as addicting as sugarcane and living life like you’re on sugarcane. Apparently, it’s a left over track from his previous album, Man Against Machine.
“Cowboys And Friends” is the most country song on the album. The mid tempo track is more laid back than most of the others on the album. The lyrics read: “The fun never ends when the party begins, cowboys and friends.” A nice ending to the standard edition and Brooks’ “favorite” song on the project.
Overall, the album rocks and is one of his best yet! The country instrumentation with organs, fiddle, acoustic guitar and its storytelling lyrics give it a throwback to the Nineties. Gunslinger is the furthest thing from today’s country sound and that could be because he uses the same musicians and production team from his previous projects.
It’s the complete opposite of bro country. The songs reflect cowboys and love and they are sequenced nicely. The production is classic Garth, but the vocals are a bit buried in parts when Brooks sings quieter. Given my need for lyrics and production notes, I will be purchasing the album separately when available on Black Friday.
This album is a must have for all Nineties country fans. Die hard Garth fans will buy this project, probably multiple times, and will play the hell out of it! I’m glad to hear that Brooks is writing more and Gunslinger is a nice title to a whirlwind year.
Author: Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.