I was excited when I heard that Randy Houser was dropping a new album this year. The result of not releasing a new project in three years — his last was 2013’s How Country Feels — gives eager fans (and the country music industry) 17 new tracks to get them Fired Up! The album’s substance with Houser’s massive voice aren’t big departures from his previous efforts, but the sound leans more modern than I’d like.
I do understand that if any artist is going to be taken seriously at country radio, they have to follow the current trends — to an extent — and we all know that involves the dreaded programming loops and hip hop feeling most songs have. Fired Up is not the exception to the rule, either, but that shouldn’t prevent you from giving this album a chance, as there are several stand out songs that make it worth purchasing.
The album’s first single, “We Went,” is the hell-raising, police-chasing anthem that gave the singer his fourth No. 1 single the same week the album was released. Houser presents a rather new direction with the track, giving fans an early peak at a more contemporary album.
Fired Up kicks off with the Jeffrey Steel and Bridgette Tatum-penned “Back,” a ballad in which Houser reflects on his younger days and how it has made him the man he is today. It’s a slower number, but is very catchy and could easily be a single and country fans can relate.
“Senior Year” is another slower track where Houser reflects on his high school years. Taking place in a small town, Houser sings about Friday night, riding around the edge of town, Letterman jackets, heartbreak and everything in-between.
“Song Number 7” is an interesting title, and yes, it does make up the seventh track. Co-written by Chris Janson, Justin Wilson and Ben Hayslip, the track serves as the album’s second single and paints of picture of how lucky the singer got while listening to the seventh song with his girl.
“Before Midnight” and “True,” both co-written by Houser, are similar sounding to two of Houser’s previous singles — “Running Out Of Midnight” and “Goodnight Kiss,” respectively. The beat, accents and structure to “Before Midnight” very eerily mimic “Running Out Of Midnight,” while the opening beat and melody of “True” imitate “Goodnight Kiss” almost to a T. I’m not sure if this was intentional or what, but most fans will notice the similarities.
One of my favorite songs on the album is the rocking “Whiskeysippi River.” Yes, it’s as hard to say as it is to spell, but the track is very different from the rest of the package. Harder, louder and faster than much of the preceding tracks, the song is a great closer. In it, Houser and his best friend Jack Daniels sail down the “Whiskeysippi River.”
Most of Fired Up‘s songs lean more on the slower to mid-tempo side, but will still please fans. It may not have been what I expected at first listen, but the more I play it, the more it grows on me. I’m more old school when it comes to sound and instrumentation, and just don’t care too much for most new country artists, but Houser is a ratification, and this album makes me crave his previous three albums even more than I did before.