The music business is all about extremes, both high and low. But when you’ve overcome being abandoned as a child, meth addiction and time locked-up for trying to finance the drug addiction like Jeff Bates has, the music business might just be a piece of cake. After a mildly successful stint at RCA Records, Jeff signed on as the flagship artist for a new Nashville Independent label, The Black River Music Group.
Where the major label records focused on Conway Twitty-like torch ballads and up tempo singles like “Long Slow Kisses” and “Good People,” Jeff Bates’ self-titled record, (while still focused on life, love, happiness, sadness and all that’s in between), tends to have production that gears more towards the heartland rock of Montgomery Gentry. While this could’ve been disastrous, Bates’ sharp songwriting and stand-out vocals save him. “I Can’t Have Nothing Nice” tells a humorous (or is it) tale of a guy who always is a victim of circumstances while “One Thing” features a sensual lyric that finds Bates singing about how he only is home to take care of every need his lady has.
“Riverbank,” like “One Second Chance” and “Rainbow Man” from previous albums, comes directly from Jeff Bates’ life. This time, it finds Jeff singing a memorial about of his father. In the grand tradition of country songs, even though it’s about Bates’ own personal life, many people will relate to the song. While many songs have been written abut cars and trucks over the years, “Chevy Don’t Let Me Down” is a fun little story of teenage reckless abandonment and the love young people have for their cars. “Don’t Hate Me For Loving You” is the first single and it was a good choice to showcase the record and serve as a bridge from the RCA albums to this newer, more ‘expansive’ sound from Bates.
“Some Days” is a song that Jeff Bates has lived. It’s a fun, summertime, fiddle-laced country rocker that recalls that Montgomery Gentry style of song again. It actually sounds like a song that radio would eat up and one that fits Bates and his get-it-done attitude (as it should since he co-wrote it). There have been many times that artists have recorded songs like “He Wasn’t Like Us” but all too often the sentiment was in the right place, but the message was lost on the listener. Like “One Of These Days,” recorded about a decade ago by Tim McGraw, Bates’ song rivals that one in terms of a strong, well laid out story arc (even if the last verse is a bit predictable).
While country music seems to be a genre of extremes as of late, Jeff Bates has risen above those extremes to make a remarkably consistent album. It’s his best record from start to finish and virtually every track on the record would make listening to mainstream country radio a better experience.