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Brantley Gilbert

Halfway to Heaven Deluxe – 2011 (Valory)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Brantley Gilbert

The success Jason Aldean experienced with two of Brantley Gilbert songs (My Kinda Party, Dirt Road Anthem) made for much excited anticipation over Brantley Gilbert's "Halfway To Heaven." Gilbert revisits Dirt Road Anthem on a new album filled with plenty of redneck musical philosophy. The way My Kinda Party, in particular, hotwired country radio with a little much-needed raw power, combined with how this man came off as the undisputed loudest performer at the already noisy Willie Nelson's Country Throwdown recently, strongly suggested that this artist may well be the second coming of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Although the hit single Country Must Be Country Wide amply lives up to that 'up to 11' promise - so much so that many have surely confused it with an Aldean single - the rest of "Halfway To Heaven Deluxe" (it s a resissue from last year on a different label with added songs) - for better or worse - mostly falls short of the ear blast mark. For starters, the first half finds Gilbert singing in a wimpy voice; one that will never be confused with Aldean's. Instead of redneck roof raisers, there is the acoustic guitar and piano-supported Saving Amy, and a lot more just like it. Maybe his label is afraid Nashville is just not ready for the cranked up guitars of Hell On An Angel.

Is this album's softer material a snapshot composite of the real Brantley Gilbert, or is the real thing the guy that wasn't afraid to let his Marshalls blare while on the road with Willie? We may never know for sure. Steve Earle followed his rock and roll heart with "Copperhead Road" way back in the day and never looked back. He simply decided he wasn't going to hide his inner biker anymore. With "Halfway To Heaven," we don't - it seems - even get the half of it when it comes to Brantley Gilbert's true musical character.