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Brantley Gilbert

The Devil Don't Sleep – 2017 (Big Machine)

Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh

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CDs by Brantley Gilbert

For those fans worrying over the potential demise of bro country, rest easy; Brantley Gilbert is here to keep that flag flying high. Comprised of a solid set of radio ready rockers alongside a few tamer numbers, Gilbert sets out to prove the establishment wrong, rolling his way through 16 tales of hard living and partying. Yet, while Gilbert holds strong to the "bro country" stance, he's also very much his own man, allowing his faith and values to pull front and center as well. And it's this dichotomy, the collision of Gilbert's partying jams juxtaposed against his pleas for justice and stories of grace that make this record so compelling. -

Highlights to be found here include opener "Rockin' Chairs," the lyric one of living life to the fullest, fueled by producer Dann Huff's chunky rock influences and "The Ones That Like Me," an easy rolling middle finger to those who might be critical of the artist, concluding with the line "And if you don't/Probably a pretty good chance I don't like you either." It's that sort of swagger that sets Gilbert apart and, paired with Huff's slick rock production, it sells itself time and again. -

"The Weekend" follows a similar formula, toeing that line between rock and country musically with lyrics about "wake and bake, and we at it again." "Smokin' Gun" wrestles with a relentless one night stand, while "Bullet In A Bonfire" finds the artist kicking in the high hats and throwing down with electric guitars as he sings of standing up for an abused woman. "Bro Code" digs in with more radio rock while Gilbert's protagonist calls out a friend who's neglecting his lady as "Outlaw in Me" finds Gilbert painting himself out to be the bad boy on a down tempo number. -

But Gilbert saves the best for last as the final trio of songs hits home with the most heart and soul. The title track leads off the trifecta, the artist's focus on the elements of darkness and light playing out throughout the track and the album itself, reminding listeners that trouble is often just lurking around the corner. Gilbert turns poignant on "We're Gonna Ride Again," a powerful eulogy to a lost friend, while pointing the spotlight front and center at his faith on closer, "Three Feet of Water," a stark piano backdrop finding the artist at his most vulnerable over lyrics of grace and redemption. -

The battle between the spirit and the flesh, the darkness and the light, are what color in the lines of Gilbert's "The Devil Don't Sleep," and the artist delivers an honest exploration of both. Packed within these tracks are tales of roughhousing and living it up, drunken explorations and illicit affairs alongside tales of powerful friendship, standing in the gap for those in need, and simple grace found beneath the baptismal waters. And through it all, Gilbert shines through, his honesty as an artist allowing him to acknowledge the wrestling within his own soul, inviting us to do the same.