No one can accuse Billy Ray Cyrus of not working hard enough. He's put out 12 releases (beginning with 1992's massive "Some Gave All"), all while keeping a regular TV acting slate. But he shows no sign of slowing down, and one can definitely sense that tireless quality here.
There's a "more is more" philosophy coloring nearly the whole first half of the proceedings. Busy country/rock arrangements abound, with many instruments running wild at once. It sounds like a band rehearsal, and makes one wish they would scale things back (maybe the exception of John Mellencamp's revered drummer Kenny Aronoff). Cyrus writes almost all the material, but the lyrics don't always show much reach. This from Hillbilly Heart: I love my truck/Love to drive it fast/If you don't like the way I drive/you can kiss." You can probably guess the rest.
But Cyrus keeps his best moves hidden for the endgame. Hope is Just Ahead revisits the melody of Help Me Make It Through the Night to turn today's school shooting headlines into a satisfying prayer. The sly I'm So Miserable is a hilarious Stevie Ray Vaughan romp. And the closer on the record, Stomp, takes an irresistible, steel guitar-led run through some wise advice about watching where you step.
Cyrus has an appealing voice, deep with a lot of overtones and the tiniest touch of the ridiculous. It might be the closest relative to Elvis' on the scene today. But while many artists could benefit from raising the stakes of their game, Cyrus needs to find the perfect cover song, strip things down and relax a little.