One thing you can never call Jerrod Niemann is boring. When he's at the top of his game, there are few singers in Nashville better suited to bridge the divide between pop and country. At the other side of the spectrum, something like "Donkey" may fail, but at least it fails spectacularly. "This Ride" continues to show off Niemann's ease at adapting pop sensibilities into country music, but his misses seem a bit more formulaic than past efforts.
"God Made a Woman," with its classic country theme, is about as close to traditional country as Niemann gets, but the mixing of steel guitar with keyboards and a drum track takes it out of the realm of traditionalist country. Similarly, "I Ain't All There" features harmonies by Diamond Rio, but the production nicely balances those traditional country voices with a contemporary production. It's encouraging to hear singers experimenting with new sounds while still remembering that "country" is a prominent part of "country-pop."
"Out of My Heart," on the other hand, shares more in common with Fall Out Boy than anything resembling country, despite the presence of a banjo driving the song. Niemann handles both sides of the musical divide equally well. His vocals may be best suited to the low-key, easy-going tempo of "Leavin' a Trail," but he can add an extra oomph when a song like "Out of My Heart" needs more power.
Niemann's laid-back, chill-out-and-drink persona occasionally adds feeling of sameness. "I Got This" is a fun enough song, but "The Regulars" and "Feelin'" don't add anything more to the album. "Feelin'" and "A Little More Love" lend further credence to the fact that country's flirtation with hip-hop may be played out.
Despite a few extraneous songs, "This Ride" shows off Niemann's creativity. He may frustrate some fans by never sticking just to country or by going fully into pop, but his unpredictability continues to be an asset.