Jason Michael Carroll, ‘Numbers’ – Album Review
Jason Michael Carroll's new album 'Numbers' is a natural fit for the Cracker Barrel lineup. The singer is a former Cracker Barrel server, who got his start singing as he schlepped chicken-fried steak and dumplings to tables in Henderson, N.C. "A Lady eating in that store overheard me singing as I walked by," he explains in the album jacket. "After that I started having customers ask me to sing to them, which gave me the confidence to begin my own career."
The album -- his first since parting with Arista Nashville in 2010 -- takes a few chances but still rings familiar for longtime fans. One can't ignore the presences of God, not only in song titles like 'Hell or Hallelujah' and 'Ray of Hope' (only the latter speaks of religion), but also in the gospel choir he employs during 'Can I Get an Amen,' a standout amongst the 11 new songs.
"I believe in equal pay / If the job's the same why pay somebody less / It don't make sense / And I believe in women's rights / But I ain't gonna lie, I do like a short, tight dress / Oh yes," he sings.
Carroll is at his best when he's telling a story -- his voice swells with confidence. The opener, 'This Is for the Lonely,' tells his story, and 'Meet Me in the Barn' is the single listeners were meant to hear before Trace Adkins released the ill-fated 'Brown Chicken, Brown Cow.' Both men tell the same rowdy story, but Carroll scrapes away all the cheese Adkins' version left him apologizing for. The female voice late in the song could make it a potential club hit if it ever makes it back to radio.
Late in the album, he strings together five guy/girl songs before finishing with 'Alyssa Lies,' the biggest hit of his career thus far. It's here that 'Numbers' struggles. The heartache songs only emit a sort of vague hurt, like a headache you don't quite want to medicate. 'My Favorite' is an upbeat love song that never really gets past a flat melody. The singer never really figures out how to approach these songs, slipping in his trademark growl at random places, but never really taking ownership of the music.
Carroll brought together a team of talented songwriters to help him co-write many of the songs on 'Numbers' (in stores now), and indeed the choruses are tight and lyrics polished. He may do better to employ a few people from outside the current hit crowd for his next album, however. A few loose ends and unexpected surprises could rejuvenate his fanbase.
Watch Jason Michael Carroll sing 'This is For the Lonely'