Album Review: Michael Ray - “Amos”

Rising star's new album shows musical growth while remaining a showcase for his stellar vocals

There’s just something about Michael Ray’s voice. Much like contemporaries Chris Young and Dustin Lynch, Michael Ray has a rich, layered baritone that has quite a bit of diversity within it. This allows him to sing traditional country songs and modern country/pop bangers with equal ferocity and/or nuance. Take, for instance “Her World Or Mine” and “Forget About It.” The former is a well-written, heart-breaking ballad  with a traditional sound while the latter is a well-written, modern, radio-ready banger that is anything if not modern in production. Some folks will not like the sonic diversity on the record but like the superstars of the format, Michael Ray must balance his artistic tendencies with the commercial aspect a career in the mainstream format demands. This is a balance George Strait maintained for years and it allowed for his albums to be complete works and Amos (named after Michael’s grandfather who introduced him to country music) is such a record.

For the entirety of the record, Ray sings songs from the pens of the genre’s A-list stars, from fellow singers like Travis Denning, Jaren Johnston (of The Cadillac Three), Matthew Ramsey, Brad Tursi and Trevor Rosen (All 3 are members of Old Dominion) to hit writers like Matt Jenkins, Jesse Frasure, Lee Thomas Miller, Abe Stoklasa, Luke Laird, Rhett Akins, Jimmy Robbins and Josh Thompson (among others). It’s a who’s-who of writers and they help Michael Ray with a wholly contemporary album while tradition remains in the mix too. The production from Scott Hendricks is some of the best production he’s done in the past decade with the balance of traditional and modern country/pop right in his sweet spot.

“Dancing Forever” is a gorgeous ballad where Michael Ray is able to shine vocally as he sings the kind of romantic lyrics that make up brilliant wedding anthems. Modern country stars seem to save the best moments on their records for the closing track and Amos is no different with a memorable lyric (a song about a soldier out on deployment). The songwriting may be straight down the middle country music but, like the hit lead single “Get To You,” it’s a stellar song and one that cuts to the bone whenever you listen to it and that ultimately makes Amos a memorable experience worth returning to again and again.