Randy Houser, ‘How Country Feels’ – Album Review
Randy Houser comes in from the edges of country music with his third album ‘How Country Feels’ — his first on new label Stoney Creek Records. The singer wrote just seven of the project’s 15 cuts, but employed many of Nashville’s top songwriters to help with the others.
The result is an even effort with no bruises, but few moments that take your breath away. It’s less of a signature project than his previous two, but surely one that will find a wider fanbase.
Houser is one of country music’s top male vocalists and he proves it over and over again in obvious spots like the ballad ‘Power of a Song,’ plus less distinct moments like the feel-good, slightly goofy rocker ‘Absolutely Nothing.’ “I wrote a song about absolutely nothing / With my toes tapping in the sand / She sang along, just me and my baby humming / Nothing like just doing / Absolutely nothing,” Houser sings, pulling the rest of the track along like a draft horse hauling kegs of Budweiser.
Lee Brice and members of the Zac Brown Band (including Zac Brown) helped pen songs on ‘How Country Feels,’ but the most honest moments are those that came from the singer’s own experiences. The funky ‘Growin’ Younger’ is a rocker that will satisfy fans of ‘They Call Me Cadillac.’ ‘Like a Cowboy’ is another vocal gem that’s both romantic and dangerous. One feels his conflicted emotions, which are a perfect fit for the ballad.
The highlight of ‘How Country Feels’ is the final song, ‘Route 3 Box 250D.’ Houser tells Taste of Country that he wrote the revealing memoir for himself, just to get a few things off his chest. “I know it’s not a hit,” Houser said. But he’s wrong. Despite being weighed down by a clunky title, the ballad provides a peek into the soul of the singer while resonating with others who’ve experienced abuse. It absolutely has hit potential because it is so personal.
“Well the man my mama married / Had a mean streak in his blood / And when he took to drinking / He’d take it out on us / And I could hear my mama crying / That made it hard to sleep,” he sings.
Finding balance between edgy, revealing cuts and those that can find room on the radio is tricky — it’s something only superstars like Kenny Chesney and George Strait have done with consistency over the last decade. Houser moves in that direction with ‘How Country Feels,’ an album that may not end up in one’s Top 3 of 2013, but one that’s sure to still sound good in a few years.