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Tate Stevens, ‘Tate Stevens’ – Album Review

Tate Stevens
RCA Nashville

The debut effort from Tate Stevens is about as straight-forward of a country album as you’ll find. ‘Tate Stevens’ is an end cap-at-Walmart sort of record that proves the ‘X Factor‘ winner can compete with the big names in Nashville.

Many of the songs are ones an artist like Craig Morgan could have cut, and in some places the ‘Almost Home’ singer would have done a better job. There’s a soft middle on ‘Tate Stevens,’ three songs that rely on down-home references but are approached in too much of a businesslike manner to truly be effective. ‘That’s Where We Live’ is the middle of these three. The 38-year-old rushed into the studio after winning the singing competition and it shows in little ways.

‘I Got This’ sets the tone for a blue-collar, country boy project that celebrates family, hard work, bad boys and good women. If there was any worry that he’d be Hollywood-ized, it’s erased after the first lyric. “Got grease on my hands, my name on my shirt / 12 hour days, ain’t afraid to work,” he sings. The song — co-written by Joe Diffie — feels pulled from the mid-90s. It’s a little corny, but a fine introduction to who he is.

‘Can’t Get Nothin’ Done’ is the finest of the three he helped write (including ‘I Got This’ and the nose to the grindstone ‘Ride It Out’) and it’d make a fine radio single. Like many songs from ‘Tate Stevens,’ there isn’t much lyrical efficiency here, which makes it difficult to sing along with after one or two listens.

‘Ordinary Angels’ is the song fans will be talking about, and Stevens admits it’s amongst his (and his wife’s) favorites. This song sounds better today than one week ago, but it would have made a hit record even before the tragedies in Boston and West, Texas. This story of helping your neighbors in little ways is special, and Stevens doesn’t miss the chance to put his full emotional weight into the performance.

The songs on ‘Tate Stevens’ range from average to above-average, with the exception of the lazy ‘El Camino.’ Stevens is an above-average singer, but more time between winning the show and kicking off his recording career may have allowed him to truly immerse himself in each story. Given the obstacles, this is a fine debut for a singer with promise.

3 Stars

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