Jimmie Allen – Tulip Drive

This Is Hit / Stoney Creek Records

Release Date: June 24th 2022

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Jimmie Allen– Tulip Drive (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Be Alright
  2. What I’m Talkin’ Bout
  3. Kissin’ You
  4. Down Home
  5. Settle On Back
  6. Pesos (feat. CeeLo Green & T-Pain)
  7. Love In The Living Room
  8. On My Way (feat. Jennifer Lopez)
  9. Broken Hearted (feat. Katie Ohh)
  10. Habits & Hearts
  11. Right Now
  12. Wouldn’t Feel Like Summer
  13. Undo
  14. Get You A Girl
  15. Keep ‘Em Coming
  16. Every Time I Say Amen
  17. You Won’t Be Alone (feat. Aadyn)

I’ve had people that don’t listen to country music start following me because they said they heard the song I did with Babyface, or the song I did with Nelly or the Noah Cyrus song. A lot of those songs are what got attention in places where people don’t really listen to country.

Genres are languages. We’re all saying the same thing: We talk about love, we talk about hurt, we talk about loss, about inspiration. But the way you deliver it is different. I spent my years in college understanding different types of people. I didn’t care about the degree, I just wanted to meet different people and be around different types of people, so that when it [came] to creating music, I [could] learn how to speak the way they do — whether the drum pattern goes this way, or there’s guitar or no guitar, the different phrasing and the cadence, stuff like that that kind of opens their ear to be receptive to the message that you’re spilling through their speakers.

That’s the big thing that I always wanted to be able to do — speak different languages, aka different genres, to where people are receptive to what you have to say.

I look at country music like I do Christian music — it’s not about how many dogs died in the song, or how many banjos you got on it, it’s about the person. And I grew up a country boy in Delaware. Country was the one place where I could completely be myself and still make the different types of music that I love.

Milton is a small, little country town, but there’s different types of people. You walk into a place and everybody’s listening to country music — Black people, Mexican people, people wearing cowboy boots, people wearing Jordans. It don’t matter.

How I was raised played a big part, because I was taught at a young age that everyone listens to country music, everyone listens to Christian, to hip-hop, to pop, to jazz. So for me, there were never really any color stereotypes associated with different genres of music. It was just people that liked music. That’s it. That definitely goes out to where I was raised and how I was raised.

I think by now you could probably call me a country fan. It was around three or four years ago when Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty released, and I listened to that entirely, and reviewed the album, when I realised that the artists who are deep and vulnerable and have something worthwhile and inspirational to say, aren’t limited to Christian artists at all. Fast forward until now, and I’ve listened to so much country music. Probably not a lot though if you’re a ‘true’ country fan… but enough for my standards at least. And it’s enough for me to declare that quite possibly some country artists are even more honest and vulnerable than Christian artists. Or maybe I should say artists who record music for CCM and worship… because an artist can be Christian but still recording music for the mainstream, and that’s another discussion all together. God has turned my definition of what He uses on its head, as I am gladly dismantling my preconceptions of music and putting them all back together again. This involves me spending a lot of time listening to country music- the genre I now find the most interesting out of all of the ‘mainstream’ genres.

Nowadays, I’m much more inclined to listen to and resonate with a country album, than with a worship album or a CCM album. Yep, that’s how much I love country music, and this year alone, as a site we’ve reviewed country albums from Walker HayesThe ShiresCarrie UnderwoodThomas RhettMiranda LambertKiefer SutherlandReba McEntireMaren MorrisTenille TownesHailey WhittersMaddie & TaeBrett EldredgeKylie MorganShania TwainHigh Valley and CCM artist Anne Wilson. We’re also planning to review in the future, albums from Mitchell TenpennyBrelandKane BrownLittle Big TownKelsea Ballerini, and Ingrid Andress. I firmly reckon there’s never been a better time to listen to country music than this year… and this sentiment is confirmed in this next album that I am reviewing. Jimmie Allen, who previously released his 2020 project Bettie James and the 2021 expanded edition called Bettie James Gold Edition; has recently unveiled his brand-new country/pop album Tulip Drive a couple of months ago… and considering how much I loved Jimmie’s previous album, it stands to reason that I would be inspired and encouraged by this album. Standing tall at a gigantic 17 tracks, we are met with an earnest and powerful album- and one that I have indeed been inspired and impacted by. It’s a tad on the long-ish side, but Jimmie has immeasurable passion and heart, and the dedication and gumption in these heartfelt and impacting melodies, shows immensely and incredibly.

The biggest thing I tell artists all the time — I know a few Mexican country artists that want to get into it. I said, “You’ve got to do it. In order to see change, it takes someone willing to put themselves out there, and force the change.”

If we didn’t have Charley Pride, [who] had the courage to be a country artist in the ’60s and ’70s, there wouldn’t be Darius Rucker. There wouldn’t be me. There wouldn’t be Kane [Brown], there wouldn’t be Mickey Guyton.

In order to change the narrative, it takes people that have the courage to put themselves in a situation and careers where there’s not a lot of people to look like them. And people say, “Well, it’s harder.” Yeah, it’s harder. Sometimes I do have to work twice as hard to get half the reward that a white artist would get in country music. But it is what it is. You can’t change the obstacles. We can only control our work ethic and the quality of music that we put out.

I first heard Jimmie Allen when Youtube recommended an audio slide on the home page one day. It was “When This Is Over”, with Tauren Wells, Rita Wilson, and the Oak Ridge Boys. I think Tauren Wells tweeted about it too, and since I follow him on social media, obviously I found out about the song, and I was intrigued. And I was pleasantly surprised with what I heard. On my previous reviews, I also outlined that the rest of the tracks on Bettie James Gold Edition are melodies that resonated with me back in 2020 and 2021; and given that Tulip Drive is not a collaborative album in the sense that Bettie James was, I thought that what better way to see what Jimmie’s ‘made of’, than an album where it probably reflects more about himself as an artist than any other album he’s recorded? The result is an album unlike anything I’ve heard in 2022, and an album that deserves countless relay value throughout the next few weeks, months, and years ahead. Opening track “Be Alright” is a poppy, radio friendly type melody, with Jimmie ardently encouraging us all to carry on with life and to keep on fighting the good fight, because everything will be alright in the end. Lyrically, this melody is a pretty basic tune, and no doubt it’s a track that is pretty hard to remember. But the sentiment of believing that things will be ok in the end, and going through life believing that; is a worthy sentiment to believe in. Tulip Drive unfortunately starts off in a pretty mediocre way, but the album sonically, lyrically, and musically impresses as the songs progress.

The rest of the album showcases Jimmie mixing up many genres as he inspires us all with his creativity, passion and love for music that grips the soul and the spirit. “What I’m Talkin’ About”, an enthusiastic love song to his wife, is sung in that pop/country flair that Jimmie is famous for, as he passionately declares that he wants to make his wife happy so that she’ll still be with him by the time the next 50 years or so roll around; while “Kissin’ You”, an album highlight, is a 90’s inspired country ballad, and speaks about Jimmie’s idea for a perfect day with his wife, outlining that ‘…we can be downtown, soakin’ up neon, spinnin’ around to your favorite tune, we can be two wild hearts parked out at the end of a road with a windshield moon, or we can be four barefeet hangin’ off the dock, just makin’ a wish or two, it’s your call how we kick it off, as long as it ends with me kissin’ you, kissin’ you…’. “Down Home”, an emotional, honest, and vulnerable guitar led ballad, is a melody about Jimmie’s father, with Jimmie outlining that he still misses him and that Jimmie wishes that his dad is in heaven. “Down Home” is also “…probably one of the most special songs I’ve ever written. I wrote it about my father – kind of like, hopefully he’s in heaven and looking down on everything I’m doing and hope he’d be proud of me. I wrote it with my friends [Tate] Howell, [Rian] Ball and [Cameron] Bedell. It’s a song that’s actually helped me a lot because in the midst of missing my father, I think about him seeing everything I’ve got going on and it’s like… even though he’s gone, he’s always with me. I hope this song finds its place in the world and this song helps people that have lost not only a father, or a parent, or a loved one just like the song has helped me…”. The melody is probably one of the most vulnerable Jimmie has been, and the song reminds us to always hold our loved ones close, because we don’t know how long we have with them.

“Settle On Back”, a special homage and tribute to the fans, is a ballad where Jimmie sings about loving his job as a singer and a touring musician, but also loving the moment when he can reconnect back with his hometown and his family when he’s home and in-between music tours; while “Pesos”, a fun and quirky Spanish and Latin-like melody with Cee-Lo Green and T-Pain, speaks about living the high life and always wanting to live like a king and live you’re the star of the show- because you’ve got money and other insane material possessions. It’s a song that doesn’t really relate to everyone, but Jimmie, T-Pain and Cee-Lo make this melody work, and remind us that sometimes you can be rich in material wealth, but poor in your heart and your soul- and so it’s better to be rich in relationships and in the people you spend your time with rather than things in your life that won’t ever fulfil you or give you true happiness. “Love In The Living Room”, a sweet yet somewhat sensual melody, speaks about Jimmie’s love for his wife and the fact that he wants to show it by making love to her in their living room (and this melody speaks about possibly each of us striving to attain that level of love for us and one other special someone in the near or far future); while Jimmie once again proves his musical versatility by teaming up with Latin/pop legend Jennifer Lopez for a countrified version of her hit single “On My Way”, from the romantic comedy Marry Me – don’t worry… because we will review J.Lo’s new album in the near future in case you all were wondering… “Broken Hearted”, with rising country star Katie Ohh, is a pop track where the persona is on the verge of a breakup with his girlfriend, and he wonders is she will be broken hearted or if she would just not care if they broke up for real. It’s a sad, harrowing reality that sometimes people break up and one person was more invested in the relationship than the other person; and this song reminds us that we need to find our person, treat people with respect and dignity, and cherish our relationships, while holding them tightly. If we don’t, then we run the risk of ending up with many broken relationships, with some of the ex’s not even caring about us.

Usually in an album that is bloated with a gazillion songs like Jimmie Allen’s is, sometimes it’s hard to find any super standouts. However, “Habits And Hearts”, a powerful and compelling piano ballad, is one such song that stands tall amongst the rest. It’s a melody about addiction and how someone Jimmie knows is having a touch time trying to break his drinking problem. It’s a song that speaks about the love for someone and hoping and praying that they would change for the sake of their family and friends. It’s a song that depicts someone in a cyclical pattern that they would love to break but they can’t. And though this song has no resolution, it reminds us of the real struggles we all go through, and also encourages us to actively step up and go get the help we need (professional help or help from friends and family) whenever we do slip up and are addicted to something that we may not be proud to admit out loud. “Right Now”, a pop melody, speaks about a vague time in Jimmie’s life when he let an ex go, and now he’s not proud of it; but the song speaks to the deeper core of us about regrets and wanting to change things in the past- the song subtly encourages us to dust ourselves off and to accept the things we can’t change instead of lamenting about the what-ifs and the should-have-beens. It’s a track that musically isn’t the greatest; however lyrically the song is extremely relatable and relevant to the time that we all are living in and the way that people ‘fall in and out of love’ so quickly. “Wouldn’t Feel Like Summer”, a rare forgettable track from Jimmie, is about how the season of summer wouldn’t feel like summer without Jimmie’s wife in Jimmie’s life (although the way this song is portrayed as a high school spring break kind of party song doesn’t really feel authentic or real to Jimmie!); while the heartbreaking piano led ballad “Undo” feels a tad disingenuous as well, as Jimmie singing about still holding a candle for his ex while she doesn’t love him back… even when Jimmie is married to someone else.

“Get You A Girl”, a powerful pop/country melody, speaks about the hypothetical situation that can happen when a man meets his soulmate and his whole world and outlook on life has changed (Jimmie probably is alluding to how his life changed when he met his now-wife); while the unmemorable and uninteresting track “Keep Em Coming” speaks about Jimmie and his wife having a night out, and not really wanting the night to end- therefore they wish that the drinks would just be ‘keeping on coming’. “Everytime I Say Amen”, a compelling and powerful song of thankfulness and gratitude, speaks about Jimmie thanking Jesus for the life he’s living now; while Tulip Drive ends with Jimmie’s best song. “You Won’t Be Alone” features Jimmie’s son Aadyn, and is a message of love, hope, celebration, and encouragement. As Jimmie sings out to his son that ‘…if you find yourself drowning in mistakes, and heart break is just a tear away, and silence comes from heaven when you pray at night, and everybody else leaves your side, you won’t be alone, I will hold your hand, I can’t promise that the world won’t hurt you down the road, but you won’t be alone…’, we are met with a song that Jesus is actually singing to each one of us. And as Jimmie relays to us the emotional meaning behind the song: I actually wrote this song like three and a half years ago. That’s why Aadyn sounds so young, he’s eight now. We did it when he was like four and a half and I saved that voice recording from like three and a half years ago. And then we put on a record. I just wanted to write a song just about, no matter what you go through in life, son, you won’t do it alone. I’ll always be here for you. And even when I’m no longer on this earth, and all the memories that we’ve shared, the things that I taught him that were taught to me will always be with him. So he’ll have a piece of me no matter where he goes.; we are presented with a melody that brings tears to our eyes, and sums up the heartbeat of the album- that every song is personal to Jimmie and every song means something to him.

I want to be on Broadway. I want to play Aaron Burr in “Hamilton” really badly. I want to host a couple shows on TV, have my own TV show, whether it’s reality TV or a sitcom. I want to do movies. I want to have my own sneaker and my own boot, my own line of men’s deodorant and facial products. I want to create kid’s shoes.

My ultimate goal is to raise money to create a music school within my old high school in Delaware, and name it after my grandma. My buddy was like, “You don’t want it to be named after you?” And I said, “Nah. I do want a statue though.” And I want a statue while I’m alive. I want to see it. I don’t want no memorial statue when I’m dead. That don’t do me no good!

In truth, 17 songs is a track list that is way too much for an album. But there is lyrical gold and gems here within this bloated track list, and Jimmie has delivered on many counts. The heartfelt ballads, the tongue and cheek pop songs, the collaborations… they all feel like Jimmie, and this album is extremely personal and authentic. Sure, it’s not your typical country album… but Tulip Drive deserves to be listened to, even if you don’t resonate with some tracks. Jimmie Allen isn’t a household name- not just yet. But I hope through this full-length album; that people won’t continue to sleep on him, and he will finally get the recognition that he deserves. Sure, his songs aren’t totally country, but who these days sticks to one genre for their entire career? One may think that Tulip Drive is a mish-mash, the story of someone still trying to find out his identity, but I for one see a common thread- Jimmie collaborating with his friends as well as his children, and creating honest music that people can relate to. There are a few tracks that aren’t fleshed out as much as I would have liked (“Wouldn’t Feel Like Summer”, “Undo”, “Keep ‘Em Coming”), but on the whole Tulip Drive is one of the few shining lights amongst a sea of sameness, and believe you me, an album like this is just what we need during the never-ending pandemic! So if you’re feeling down and miserable, why don’t you put on Tulip Drive and start singing along? I guarantee it, it’ll bring a smile to your face!

Whether it’s a show or interview or something, if I’m not in the right space to do it, I’ll cancel it. And it’s always a few days ahead of time or a week in advance because I know me, I can kind of feel it: ‘Yeah, I’m not going to be good on this day. Let’s move it.’ I look at my music career like sports. If I’m not able to perform or create at a level that I’ve always done it, I won’t do it anymore. Imagine [Michael] Jordan in the NBA right now. You would easily forget about his greatness. You’d easily forget about everything he accomplished … because people are all about the right now. I want to do it at a level for a while. After I step away and retire, I might do a pop-up thing twice a year. But the time of grinding and building will be over. It’s more enjoyment, to where if I want to put out a song, I might. But I probably won’t.

3 songs to listen to: Down Home, On My Way, Everytime I Say Amen, You Won’t Be Alone

Score: 4.5/5

RIYL: Lady A, Kelsea Ballerini, Blake Shelton, Royal Tailor, Steven Curtis Chapman, Thomas Rhett

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