With a tragic stage collapse prior to a Sugarland show and a failed marriage in his rearview mirror, one might expect Kristian Bush's solo debut to be peppered with tales of regret and heartbreak. Yet "Southern Gravity" is surprisingly anything but for the other half of Sugarland, offering up a solid dose of positive vibes, heartfelt love and strong mainstream country appeal.
Lead single "Trailer Hitch" sets the tone with a laidback appeal that colors the whole of the record while the lyric, "Can't take it with you when you go/Never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch" is sung playfully by Bush, but carries much more poignancy when looked at through the artist's recent lens of life. Following suit, "Giving It Up" is a deceptively simple sounding track, a bright banjo and guitar leading the way while the artist sings of letting go of the pain of the past and the fears of the future, taking up the rest and peace found in true love.
Building on the sense of jubilant rest found there, songs like the driving "Make Another Memory" and "Light Me Up" deliver radio ready mainstream country chops and tales of love and faithfulness. "Sending You a Sunset" drops things to mid tempo, the lyric one of long distance love while "Sweet Love" hints at heartbreak with a gentle acoustic backdrop. "Feeling Fine California," building off an easy-going country riff, reflects on similar themes but finds hope in the future, a future that the artist dreams about in the acoustic-driven "House On a Beach."
And while California is kind to Bush's musical protagonist, he finds himself drawn by a sense of "Southern Gravity," "getting lost in the moss and the shade of an old oak tree." A warm, heartfelt track that celebrates the South and its sense of home, it's a perfect title track. But if there's a track that truly captures the heart of Bush's journey and forward motion, it's the moody, Springsteen-flavored "Walk Tall." Embracing the dark and pressing toward the light, it's a song that seems to outline the difficult path toward the silver lining that Bush has trod over the past couple of years.
Bush's solo debut doesn't break any musical molds or even create new ones, but what it does do is show that he's more than capable of holding his own in an already crowded market.