There’s no getting around the idea that as a singer and performer, Chris Daughtry is intense. It seems everything he does, it is with urgency and energy.
Listening to Leave This Town, the powerful follow-up to his 2006 debut, which turned out to be the fastest-selling debut rock album in history, Daughtry proves he and his four bandmates are good at what they do.
The former American Idol runner-up from North Carolina with the powerful voice and undeniable stage presence has found a niche in pop music – formulaic arena rock with a sensitive side – and so far it is working incredibly well for the shaved-headed frontman and his group.
Pop hooks and decent melodies balanced with heavy guitars and thundering drums are found throughout Leave This Town, produced by Howard Benson, who produced Daughtry’s first album.
“Every Time You Turn Around” is one of those uptempo rockers that is actually quite catchy with it’s “woo-ooo” backing vocals and crunchy riffs.
It’s “no surprise” that Daughtry has teamed up with Chad Kroeger of Nickelback for a couple of songs, including “Life After You” and the new single … “No Surprise,” a polished track that would have fit comfortably in Nickelback’s catalogue.
The lyrics range from frustration of an unworkable relationship“’Cause all this sucking up to you is getting old” (“What I Meant To Say” ), to the end of a relationship due to a death “Seems it’s only been a moment since the angels took him from her arms” (“Open Up Your Eyes”). Ben Moody, formerly of Evanescence co-wrote this song with Daughtry and David Hodges. In fact most of the lyrics are typically relationship oriented.
Opening up with acoustic guitar on the reflective “September” slowly builds in power and intensity with Daughtry’s vocals mixed up front, which works well on this track. Too often the vocals are muddied or lost. High marks to mixer Chris Lord-Alge. This song is among Daughtry’s best.
In fact, high marks go to guitarists Brian Craddock and John Steely, bassist Josh Paul and drummer Joey Barnes. These guys are truly a despite, despite the Daughtry moniker. On “Ghost Of Me,” the band really clicks along.
And what’s interesting is that Daughtry shares songwriting credits with several of them, including drummer Barnes who helped write “Call Your Name,” the beautiful song that bookends the album.
Songs like “Supernatural” and “Learn My Lesson” seem a little less inspired, more paint-by-numbers rock.
But that said, Daughtry isn’t afraid of stepping outside of their rock world and into the world of country music as evidenced on “Tennessee Line,” a terrific song that borders more on acoustic roots-rock and featuring guest vocals from Oklahoma native and country star Vince Gill. Nashville session fiddle player Aubrey Haynie adds a lot with his haunting string work.Way to go guys. Here’s to hoping we get more of this in the future.
All said, Leave This Town is the sort of album that reminds rock fans that there is still some great music out there in the mainstream rock world that even your mother could love.
Grade – B+
About the author: Andrew Griffin is the editor of RedDirtReport.com.