Nate Smith – Nate Smith (Deluxe)

Sony Music Entertainment

Release Date: April 28th 2023

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Nate Smith– Nate Smith (Deluxe) (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. If I Could Stop Loving You
  2. Alright, Alright, Alright
  3. One Good Girl
  4. Back At It Again
  5. You Ain’t Been In Love
  6. Better Boy
  7. You Only Want Me When You’re Drunk
  8. Bad Memory
  9. Oil Spot
  10. Wreckage
  11. LFG
  12. Whiskey On You
  13. You Shouldn’t Have To
  14. Sleeve
  15. I Found You
  16. Backseat
  17. Name Storms After
  18. Raised Up
  19. Under My Skin
  20. I Don’t Wanna Go To Heaven
  21. World on Fire
  22. I Don’t Miss You
  23. Good By Now
  24. What An Angel Ain’t
  25. Dear Heart
  26. Love Is Blind

In 2021, I wrote a pretty negative review of Mitchell Tenpenny’s Christmas album Naughty List. At the time, I hadn’t heard a single thing about Mitchell and his music. I had first heard about him when his video for “Bucket List” surfaced online one day on my YouTube home page. I was… well I wasn’t transfixed or that captivated, but it was ok-ish. A song that actually would fit right at home on K-Love or any other Christian radio station, that speaks about how we should always strive to do what we want to do today instead of some far off distant date in the future which may or may not come, that ‘…I’ma love a little more, dream a little deeper, leave all the leavers, keep all the keepers, find peace of mind in the time the good Lord gives, I’ma cross one off, put two more on it, say, “I love you” ‘fore the moment’s gone, and never have to ask myself, “What if”, when I get to the bottom of my bucket list…’. And the fact that this radio friendly song would sound right at home on a CCM radio station, is in part due to the fact that Mitchell has a vocal eerily similar to CCM artist Micah Tyler, and also reminds me vocally of Danny Gokey, JJ Weeks, Dave from Sidewalk Prophets, and Bart from MercyMe. Despite being a country singer (who hasn’t really dominated that much on the country charts until around about… now?) it seemed to me that Mitchell didn’t really have the presence of a country star and does actually sound like a CCM singer. In essence, I concluded that Naughty List was just… there. Not a good album, but an album fit for background music. Mitchell is a country star on the rise though, and I’m sure he will dominate in the upcoming months and years. Fast forward to now, and Mitchell recently released his latest full length album This Is The Heavy this past September. We hadn’t had a chance to review this project until a few months ago; but last year, we did voice our thoughts and opinions on Mitchell’s 2022 EP The Low Light Sessions.

To be honest, I wasn’t going to listen to this 2022 project. I had decided that Mitchell wasn’t a ground-breaking country artist. But “Horseshoes And Hand Grenades” is such a powerful and catchy opener… and so I had to listen, and give my thoughts. You can read my entire review here; but the essence was that The Low Light Sessions is a superb EP that delivers on all accounts- musically, thematically, lyrically and vocally. Country albums are supposed to inspire, move, comfort, impact and encourage. This one inspires a lot, unlike Mitchell’s Christmas album. There are plenty of gems here (maybe aside from “My Next Sad Song”)… and now I have high hopes for This Is The Heavy. And so… This Is The Heavy fell flat, and I was accepting of the fact that Mithcell would just be another country artist who is just… okay. Writing okay songs with okay lyrics that just hit me in an okay way. And while there is nothing new from Mitchell right now; the debut country album from Nate Smith– standing tall at a whopping 26 tracks (why do artists insist on releasing more and more songs per album? Why not 13-14 and that’s it?), is almost like this is Mitchell 2.0, or Mitchell 0.5…

Nate Smith was a virtual unknown for me not too long ago. I decided to listen to his album because I figured ‘there’s 26 tracks, surely one will stick out and resonate with me!’, and I thought that maybe such a big guy will have a commanding voice like Mark Hall (Casting Crowns), Bart Millard (MercyMe) or Danny Gokey. Or even if he had a big country voice like Mitchell Tenpenny; I figured that at least a few of his 26 songs (again, why too many songs on a debut album?) would resonate in terms of lyrics, and maybe I’d find a male solo new artist who will be a star in the making. Well the jury is in, and after listening to Nate Smith for the better part of a few hours now… can I say that it’s instantly forgettable and I can’t name any of the songs that stand out, nor what the songs are about.

This album is a carbon copy of This Is The Heavy in the worst way possible. If Mitchell recorded any or all of these songs, they’d have the same effect on me that with this version with Nate- and that isn’t a good thing for a debut album. Sure, this guy has passion. But there’s nothing here that has that distinct country ‘wow’ factor. Lyrically, there’s lazy writing as well, and certainly, no one in today’s society (from Gen Z and maybe millennials!) would have the time and patience to sit through and listen to an album of that length. Maybe it’s a ‘country guy’ thing, because I personally found albums from Alana Springsteen and Ashley Cooke more endearing, poignant, heartfelt, honest, vulnerable and personal than this (and male country artists have this stigma of boyfriend-country and bro-country!); but in short, Nate Smith the album is a trainwreck (not the artist, he might be a cool guy, but this album leaves much to be desired)… Not that people listen to albums for the full listening experience nowadays- because people cherry pick songs from Spotify here and there anyway. That’s neither here nor there though. The point is that no matter which way you slice the album, the album is frankly too long. Sure, Nate seems to be a great guy, and he does have passion and heart and soul as evidenced in all of these songs. But to me personally, the entire album feels less than the sum of its parts. It’s a nice country/rock/pop album that is great to put on as background music. But if you want an album to wow you beyond belief and to convince you that this is the album of the year… then Nate’s project certainly isn’t it. There is no song that is that ‘heartbeat’ of the album, and that’s a shame!

To be honest, there are plenty of other 20-song projects (or long-ish projects) that have wowed me in the past more-so that Nate’s effort. TWENTY SOMETHING by Alana Springsteen, Shot In the Dark by Ashley Cooke, The Beautiful Letdown (Our Version): Deluxe Editon by Switchfoot, I Believe by Phil Wickham, Songwriter by Richard Marx, both HOLY FVCK and Dancing With The Devil…The Art Of Starting Over by Demi Lovato, Life After Death by TobyMac, Subject To Change by Kelsea Ballerini, The Loneliest Time by Carly Rae Jepsen, Bell Bottom Country by Lainey Wilson, Goldmine (Deluxe Edition) by Gabby Barrett, Firebird by Natalie Imbruglia, 29: Written In Stone by Carly Pearce, and My Story Your Glory by Matthew West. All of these albums are north of 14 tracks (what I reckon is the sweet spot in terms of suitable number of tracks for an album until the average person becomes tired or bored!), and I reckon the reason why these albums have resonated with me are because there seems to be a purpose in the album. There’s a theme or a journey the artist is going through within these tracks which is compelling to me. Or the songs are actually engaging and resonating because they are good songs, and they just happen to be contained in a ‘long’ album. but on the whole (and this is why I intentionally didn’t review John Legend’s 24 song album LEGEND); long albums are a problem. There’s an article I read about long albums that I agree with; and in the case of both Mitchell Tenpenny’s This Is The Heavy and Nate Smith’s self-titled debut album… perhaps the track list might have flowed better if 5-8 songs were cut in the middle? Individually though, a few songs resonate (inclusive of “Better Boy”, “Wreckage”, “Whiskey On You”, “Sleeve”, “I Found You”, “Raised Up”, “What An Angel Ain’t” and “Dear Heart”). But no one is literally going to listen to a 26-song album, aside from a long-time fan of the artist. And maybe that’s the point. Is Nate capturing his long-time fans? As a new artist, does he have many long-time fans? Because unfortunately he won’t get new ones from this album. Maybe Nate, like Mitchell I presume, is content in creating albums and capturing fans who love long albums? All jokes aside, perhaps Nate Smith would’ve benefitted if it was a double disc, or split into 2 albums of 13?

Nate Smith is indeed a country star on the rise- I’ve mentioned this already. Like with Mitchell Tenpenny, Nate is also an artist that I’m positive will dominate in the upcoming months and years. Nate Smith the album was incredibly underwhelming… some individual songs (like the ones aforementioned, are good, but there are too many mediocre songs, and when it’s the same or similar song structure and music, the album can drag a bit. Maybe I’m not a fan of bro-country or boyfriend-country. But… shudder to think, you may love this album. Then… more power to you! As a debut album, I reckon 26 songs is too long. Will Laura Marano’s debut full length pop album resonate with me then? Only time will tell. And this is why I’m most excited for up and coming country artists Emily Ann Roberts, Alexandra Kay and Kylie Morgan to release their relatively shorter debut projects. Sure long albums are objectively good- there’s songs that weren’t released from the pandemic that are being released now in a big clump. But when almost every album is long, the uniqueness and novelty wears off. As for this album, shall we sit through Nate Smith or cherry pick the songs we like? Either is ok, but I know which option I’ll be picking!

It’s not really about a brand or an artist or anything like that. It’s more like, here are some amazing songs that have touched my heart and that I think can touch other people. I’m just the lucky person to be able to sing them and bring that message to people because I’ve lived those things. Every song I put out, I’ve lived. I’m just happy to be a vessel for that.

I’ve written a few hundred songs over the last couple of years so it’s hard going through and figuring out what songs are going to make it. There are a lot of things that go into that. Sometimes I’m wrong in my feelings but really listening to my gut is usually my main key. The cool thing, though, is that, at the end of the day, everyone ultimately wants me to do what I want to do. No one’s ever made me cut a song that I didn’t want to cut. It’s just a process.

7 songs to listen to: Wreckage, Whiskey On You, Sleeve, I Found You, Raised Up, Dear Heart

Score: 2/5

RIYL: Danny Gokey, Mitchell Tenpenny, Russell Dickerson, Micah Tyler, Chris Young, Morgan Wallen, Cody Johnson

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