Warner Music Nashville
Release Date: April 16th 2021
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Beach Cowboy
- Made By The Water
- Party On The Beach
- Sunday Service In The Sand
Mark the calendar people. April 16th 2021 is a momentous day in history. Why, you ask? Well, if you indeed intentionally clicked on this review for the purpose of reading it; then you know that that day was the day that Brian Kelley, one half of the infamous and controversial country duo Florida Georgia Line (FGL), released his solo EP BK’s Wave Pack. With Brian and bandmate Tyler Hubbard alluding to a band hiatus or a band breakup or whatever it is; the fact of the matter was that they both coined the ambiguous term of spreading your wings and testing the waters to see how making music on their own as a solo artist feels like. Thus we are here at a crossroad, where one of the most successful country acts are in limbo, and we are introduced to Brian’s work as a solo artist.
Florida Georgia Line are somewhat of a mixed, bag, are somewhat of an enigma. The country duo of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley have been in and around the country music since the formation of the duo in 2010- with their latest album Life Rolls On being their 5th album so far. However, even though Tyler and Brian have their die-hard fans (which doesn’t include myself- I’m only a casual listener!), they equally have their critics and their haters. Some would say these guys are too cliché with their generic lyrics about beers and trucks and girls and summertime and having a good time and more beer and cars and more girls. Yet others feel as if the band revolutionised the country genre, and have put the fun back into country music. And there are a smorgasbord of reactions all across the board- and for a long time I was indifferent to the duo. However, I have for the better part of two and a half years, dived deep into the country genre. And let me just say that there’s something about country music that just tugs at my emotions- it’s super honest, emotional, personal and vulnerable holistically; and artists like Kelsea Ballerini, Jana Kramer, Thomas Rhett, Maddie & Tae, Hunter Hayes, Carrie Underwood, Lauren Alaina, Lindsay Ell, Maren Morris, Keith Urban, Little Big Town and Sugarland to name a few (or a lot!), have all resonated with me greatly over the past couple of years.
Sadly though, FGL’s latest album Life Rolls On didn’t interest me one bit- I actually only decided to review their album and check them out properly because of the fact that Tyler and Brian were both heavily involved in the production of Chris Tomlin’s album Chris Tomlin & Friends. Alas, the album is ok- nothing special, but nothing bad either. It’s not enough for FGL to force their way into any influential artist list Jon and I have at the moment; however Tyler and Brian’s hearts are in the right place, and it’s clear that they’re still having fun here after all these years. And this brings me to BK’s Wave Pack, an ambitious and comforting EP from Brian- and one that is thoroughly enjoyable for myself. I may not have resonated with FGL and their latest effort (although I might revisit listening to them in the future!), yet Brian’s EP hits all the right chords. Laidback, fun, breezy, hopeful and introspective, we rarely heard Brian take the lead on vocals for FGL. And so this EP is very special.
EP opener “Beach Cowboy” sets the tone for the project, as the part country, part summertime anthem directly and unashamedly relays to us that Brian is known by ‘people’ as the beach cowboy- and he embraces that moniker very proudly, proclaiming that ‘…yeah, they call me beach cowboy (Beach cowboy), sand cruiser, fat tire, turquoise (Tire, turquoise), got a shark tooth on my bolo, saddle up, paddle up, my YOLO, yippee-yo-ki-yay, it’s your boy BK, goin’ John Wayne on these waves…’. As Brian essentially admits to being a fan of the beach, the water references keep on coming here. The 3 minute guitar led country/pop melody “Made By The Water” celebrates Brian’s love of the beach and the love of his wife as he’s planting down roots at the beach; while the somewhat cliché and possibly unnecessary party track “Party On The Beach” speaks about exactly that- a loud and raucous party on the beach, where friends throw a bonfire party (as per the music video) just because they can. IT’s a nice change of pace from the reflective songs… yet why does Brian promote having ‘dogs on the grill’ in the beach party? BK’s EP then winds down with the thought-provoking and quasi-worshipful “Sunday Service In The Sand”. My personal favourite song on the project, Brain eloquently and prayerfully gives God a shoutout, as he sings out that ‘…I’m sending up a beach chair prayer, I’m talkin’ to the man upstairs, gotta tell Him how grateful that I am, I can feel the salt water workin’, high tide’s takin’ me to church and I can’t help but raise my hands to another Sunday Service in the sand…’. With Brian giving thanks for the beach, the feel of this EP is similar to Switchfoot’s Fading West, as BK goes back to nature, and presents to us a different side to himself unlike any we’ve seen in FGL.
With FGL ‘parting ways’ so that both members can go solo, but with the band theoretically and technically not breaking up, one could have said that Life Rolls On marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. There’s no denying the passion here as Tyler and Brian as a duo are one of today’s most ingenious and enthusiastic groups… yet their potential is yet again not realised here. Life Rolls On is good- but it’s not great. On the other hand, BK’s Wave Pack is a breath of fresh air overall, especially “Sunday Service In The Sand”; and I can’t wait for Brian’s full length debut solo album, no matter when it releases. As for Tyler Hubbard… well is the solo project going to shed his party boy image? I’ll reserve judgement… but for now let’s just say that Brian Kelley surprised me in a good way, and I hope he takes more reins of the vocals in FGL if they ever should record another album someday.
2 songs to listen to: Made By The Water, Sunday Service In The Sand
RIYL: Tim McGraw, Thomas Rhett, Brad Paisley, Eric Church, Rascal Flatts, Russell Dickerson, Brett Eldredge