Dustin Lynch’s new album sets expectations low for the country music industry this year

Dustin Lynch’s new album sets expectations low for the country music industry this year

Sometimes, I think country music gets a bad reputation. 

I tend to think people judge it too brutally, especially those who can’t relate to the lyrics of the songs. I may not be a country girl, but I still enjoy and appreciate the art and craft of it. 

That being said, Dustin Lynch’s new album Tullahoma is simply mediocre. At best, it is basic and unoriginal in almost every way. The exhausting repetition of Tullahoma makes me understand why people degrade the genre.

I realize most country songs are about love, heartbreak, and country towns, and it usually doesn’t bother me. However, the ratio of the songs on this album was severely imbalanced, though it took me a couple of songs to realize it and lose hope thanks to the misleading titles. 

The first song “Mamma’s House” ironically wasn’t actually about Lynch’s mamma’s house. Instead, the track was about heartbreak. Similarly— in an opposite way—the nostalgic, feel good, and Sam Hunt-esque second track “Dirt Road” wasn’t in fact about a dirt road. Rather, it was a love song. 

Song titles aside, I counted ten love songs, one heartbreak song, and only mere references to his hometown. Yet, supposedly, this album is Lynch’s way of paying homage to his hometown and his attempt at characterizing his childhood.

I guess it makes sense seeing that Lynch only co-wrote six of the eleven tracks. The other five songs on this album were written by a multitude of collaborating writers including Rhett Akins, David Garcia, Ashley Gorley, and Busbee. 

Naturally, you would assume that a variety of writers would produce very different sounding tracks. 

Alas, no. 

At first, I was drawn to the catchy lyrics and groovy beats. Yes, somehow the country music was intoxicatingly groovy in ways I can’t begin to explain. I could sing along to “Workin’ On You” all day—it makes me want to dance around the living room with a wooden spoon as a microphone. It’s so smooth that it’s the definition of a soft smile—you know, in a country way, not an aesthetic way.

But as I continued to listen, the whole album began to blur together into a muck of sound. All the songs sound the same, though I must point out that Tullahoma excellently mixed together traditional country, country pop, and country-rock as exemplified in “Old Country Song.”

Because Tullahoma took uniformity took the next level, “The World Ain’t Yours and Mine” caught me off guard and immediately became my favorite track. Like other songs, The World Ain’t Yours and Mine” is catchy— my weakness— but it begins peppy before settling in and growing more laid back.

Furthermore, the lyrics—written by Matt Ramsey, Luke Laird, and Rodney Clawson— are just too precious.  At the end of the chorus, Lynch sings, “That’s got me thinkin’ baby, maybe we’ll make it/ ‘Til the stars die and time spreads its wings and flies/ And the world ain’t yours and mine.”

The other song that stands out because of the sheer cuteness and catchiness is “Thinking ‘Bout You (feat. Lauren Alaina).” Together, Lynch and Alaina tell the story of a pair of exes finally talking and missing one another. They manage to paint a picture of their relationship much like Lynch does on other tracks like “Country Star”— a song that is unremarkable and completely forgettable.

Moreover, Lynch and Alaina’s voices work together lovely. While some collaborations feel like a tug of war between the artist and featured artist, “Thinking ‘Bout You” flowed perfectly. Their voices mesh in the most satisfying manner that really pulls that song together and makes it noteworthy.

However, Lynch’s vocal talent is never really showcased. He plays it very safe, singing within a set range and without any runs or riffs. “Ridin’ Roads” is the only song where the extent of Lynch’s abilities is explored as he sings much lower and richer than normal. 

“Ridin’ Roads” isn’t actually a new song. Along with “Little Town Livin’” and “Red Dirt, Blue Eyes,” “Ridin’ Roads” is from Lynch’s 2019 EP titled after the song. Yet, this isn’t the oldest song on the album. Lynch added his 2018 single and hit “Good Girl” to Tullahoma. In my opinion, both “Ridin’ Roads” and “Good Girl” are still overplayed on the radio. 

Altogether, Tullahoma was a mix of good and bad, not wholly one or the other. Though I had no preexisting expectations, Tullahoma was extremely underwhelming. Lynch was the first big country singer to put out music in the new year, and all I can say is that I hope Tullahoma doesn’t set the tone for the country genre this year.