Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars
Chris Young can boast one of those rag to riches stories that are mostly the type borne from Hollywood screenwriters. Singled out for stardom after successfully competing on the USA Network program Nashville Star in 2006, he was subsequently signed to RCA Records. After a tepid start, he found himself sailing to the top of the charts courtesy of his fourth single, “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song).” That was followed by several more number one hits in rapid succession, as well as a bundle of country music awards nods and/or nominations, all of which have now culminated in A.M., a set of songs that will inevitably garner several other success stories as well.
Of course, the true test for any mainstream country artist is the ability to express homespun sentiment with songs that extol the virtues of women, whiskey, a rowdy good time or any combination thereof. And clearly, in the stomp and swagger of “Aw Naw,” “Hold You To It,” “A.M.” and “We’re Gonna Find It Tonight,” Young manages to encapsulate all those attributes in unequivocal ways. “Everybody grab a cold beer/Pop it open and raise it in the air,” he urges listeners on the rough and tumble “Nothin’ But the Cooler Left.” If the title doesn’t relay the message none too subtly, suffice it to say the refrain makes it completely clear.
Likewise, just as Young takes care not to tinker with that rowdier, roughshod template, so too he’s adept at echoing the sadder observations gleaned from country music as well. In those cases, Young becomes the victim of a gal who’s forsaken faithfulness, and, alternatively, a woman who’s simply left him brokenhearted for no apparent reason at all. While “Text Me Texas” may reek of desperation (“Give me a couple of lines I can read between/You can even tell me a lie/Something to get me by”), the heartfelt plea that resonates through the break-up ballad “Goodbye” makes a pretty good case for keeping the relationship intact. In the hands of a wannabe, the aforementioned songs might sound somewhat cloying, but given Young’s rugged vocals and apparent reservoir of conviction, the emotions ring true. All the more reason to believe A.M. helps fulfill the promise established not all that many years ago, when Young’s career was just beginning to dawn.