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Billy Ray Cyrus, ‘I’m American’ – Album Review

I'm American
Buena Vista Records

Billy Ray Cyrus may draw criticism for releasing an album of patriotic songs one week before Independence Day. On the surface, ‘I’m American’ could feel like a quick way for him to make a few dollars — he even re-recorded his soldier salute anthem ‘Some Gave All’ for the  project. However, an objective listen only turns up honesty, and genuine appreciation for what the American military stands for. ‘I’m American’ isn’t a money-grab, it’s a love letter.

As an album, it’s not one you’ll put in the CD player with regularity after the newness wears off. It’s a specialty project for everyone but those with loved ones currently serving overseas. The songs are straight forward, and at times the lyrics are generic, but this isn’t a man known for his intricate and symbolic stories. Cyrus is known for packing plenty of emotion into three-and-a-half minutes, however, and on ‘I’m American,’ he doesn’t let us down.

Of the eight songs, two tell stories of soldiers who didn’t make it home from war, and one (‘Some Gave All’) is a tribute to every soldier who didn’t make it home. Both ‘We Fought Hard’ and ‘Nineteen’ are predictable but powerful ballads that may leave even the most stone faced reaching for a tissue. Country listeners may recognize ‘Nineteen,’ as a host of aspiring artists have recorded the song, most recently Bill Gentry.

There are happy times on ‘I’m American.’ The rocking ‘Keep the Light On’ is the story of a soldier coming home, and the title track is a bluesy American pride testimonial. ‘Stripes and Stars’ is a moving duet with Amy Grant. The storyteller is missing his wife “half a world away,” “But then I see ol’ glory flyin’ / And remember everything behind it.”

Cyrus brought Jamey Johnson, Craig Morgan and Darryl Worley in the studio to record ‘Some Gave All’ with him. All four are fiercely patriotic — many don’t realize Johnson served eight years in the U.S. Marines — and their collective passions overwhelm the song. It’s not any better or worse than the original, just a fresh look at a 19-year-old song. There are plenty of good reasons to buy ‘I’m American’ and it could be one you’ll reach for at appropriate holidays. As he does with everything he touches, Cyrus gives a great effort. Whether you appreciate that effort probably has more to do with your opinion of the man at the beginning of this review.

3.5 Stars
Watch the Billy Ray Cyrus ‘Runway Lights’ Video

 

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