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Mitchell Tenpenny

Telling All My Secrets – 2018 (Riser House/Columbia Nashville)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Mitchell Tenpenny

Mitchell Tenpenny is yet one more artist stretching the definition of country music - nearly to the breaking point. While he sings with a distinctly enjoyable, Otis Redding-like soulful voice, the arrangements to these songs on his second album feature far more pop than twang. Steve Earle famously commented how contemporary country music is "hip-hop for people who are afraid of black people," but some of it - including this album's songs - sounds like pop music that doesn't quite fit onto with today's pop and R&B saturated top-40 chart. It's difficult to decipher country elements in this mix.

The hit, "Drunk Me," sounds like it could have just as easily been a hit for Bon Jovi. It has that big hair, anthemic quality. He loves writing about alcohol, which is a value he shares with many other country artists. However, this liquor love also led to the badly titled "Alcohol You Later," which is neither funny nor good. The title cut sways to an enjoyable soul groove. It has a musical throwback quality that highlights Tenpenny's nuanced vocal tone. Its arrangement also features warm blues guitar fills. As good as it is, though, it's still not particularly country. "Walk Like Him," which sketches out the similarities between a father and a son, is country-styled lyric that supports the value of family relationships. Once again, though, it's more of a soul musing than a country tune.

Except for its over-reliance on drinking analogies and mostly non-country musical elements, there's much to enjoy about "Telling All My Secrets..." It's good pop music in many places, but we also need to call it what it is.