Frankie Ballard, ‘Frankie Ballard’ – Album Review
Frankie Ballard is the best thing to come out of Battle Creek, Mich. since the Froot Loop. The country newcomer releases his debut album today, and wears his hometown's blue-collar attitude with enough optimism to deliver a list of songs that feel at once gritty and buoyant. The self-titled project stops short of brilliant, but Ballard shows enough promise to have country fans excited about his future.
The current single, 'A Buncha Girls,' and the uptempo traveler 'Get on Down the Road' are two highlights. The first showcases Ballard's guitar chops around lyrics that are certain to resonate throughout the summer. 'Get on Down the Road' feels like a song Dierks Bentley would have recorded two albums ago.
"Well I don't like to see 'em cry / I don't like to say good-bye / So there ain't much left for me to do / So I / Better get on down the road / As fast as I can go / Gonna let these big wheels roll / Crank up that radio / Pull my hat down low / Get on down the road," Ballard sings. Bentley never exhausted this formula, so Ballard's take on it still feels fresh.
Ballads like the Top 40 hit 'Tell Me You Get Lonely' and 'Sober Me Up' hold more emotional weight than one would expect from a 27-year-old newbie. Ballard isn't just including a weeper to appease female fans -- there's a memory he's holding on to. His scars open our old wounds which, as macabre as it sounds, is a good thing.
Artists from the Midwest are inevitably compared to John Mellencamp, and one catches whiffs of "Cougar" throughout this album. Ballard does nothing to encourage this; exactly zero of the eight tracks are about the little man's fight against the factory owner or young lovers sucking on chili dogs. Singers sound like where they come from, however, and Battle Creek is battling. There's an air of resentment amongst residents towards cereal and automotive companies that have moved jobs elsewhere.
Ballard uses this chip on his shoulder to propel him forward instead of hold him back. A more accurate comparison would be to Keith Urban, as Ballard's music is country pop-rock, and he can work a fretboard with speed and accuracy, if not yet consistency. Perhaps he's Keith Urban light: a pretty good place to begin.
Watch the Frankie Ballard 'Tell Me You Get Lonely' Video