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Brantley Gilbert

Just As I Am: Platinum Edition – 2015 (Valory Music)

Reviewed by Dustin Blumhagen

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CDs by Brantley Gilbert

With the third version of Brantley Gilbert's "Just as I Am," he has almost doubled the average country album track listing. The definitive Platinum Edition contains 19 tracks that feature his trademark rock inflected country sound. The original 11 tracks are still intact, with the addition of the 3 songs from the original deluxe edition. Added on at the end are five new songs that largely fit well with the tone of the album.

Those who originally purchased the regular edition have nine new reasons to upgrade their copy. A couple of the songs are alternate versions of previously recorded tracks, such as "G.R.I.T.S.," which was originally on his first album. The second version of "Bottoms Up" features an appearance from hip hop artist T.I., who adds some beats. It was one of the weaker tracks on the first version, and the misguided addition of a rap verse doesn't improve it.

One of the original interesting things about this album was the focus on ballads and emotionally driven mid-tempo rockers. The additional tracks follow the theme for the most part. On "Stone Cold Sober," Gilbert pens a letter that reflects on love through the eyes of an alcoholic, apologizing for drunken indiscretions and begging for another chance. It is an emotional track that is reminiscent of Hinder's "Lips of an Angel."

Gilbert's over the top personality is a turn off for some, with his wallet chains and faux biker image, but the mild gravelly edge to his voice is undeniably engaging. On "Do What the Night Wants," he sings about love, asking a woman to hang out with him through the night. There is a harder rock edge to "Same Old Song" than the other new tracks, which adds a little grit to contrast the ballad tendencies that permeate the majority of the album. Gilbert may be the one artist who best personifies bro country, so it makes sense that he has recorded a defense for those who are critical of the modern trend of singing about dirt roads, small towns and pickup trucks.

The album closes with the title track, one of the strongest songs on the lengthy release. The spare accompaniment of a piano on the sombre ballad adds weight to Gilbert's vocals. His lyrics are often overly simplistic, relying on stereotypes about drinking and women, which doesn't help appease critics. Despite that fault "Just as I Am" is a pretty song that serves as a worthy finale to an album that explores love, loss and faith through the eyes of a regular blue collar guy.