Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
Joe Nichols suffers from a split personality. With a fine voice like his and songs from his past like Brokenheartsville,
Nichols is strongly positioned to lay claim to being one of the very few last traditional country singers standing. There just aren't a whole lot of folks out there with the twang and phrasing (listen to how he holds the notes on the lead-off Just Let Me Fall in Love With You
or the twang in Baby You're in Love With Me
) out there like Nichols.
One of the prime examples among the 16 songs on his label debut is Billy Graham's Bible, a rarity in on a disc filled with songs about hot chicks and having fun. The slower, but steady Gotta Love It with horns and organ gives a soulful edge. Nichols also turns in a welcome cover of Merle Haggard's Footlights. Nichols shows his comfort level quite clearly with these types of songs that suit his voice so well.
But when you listen to "Crickets" in its entirety, you realize that Nichols isn't totally sold on the idea because about half of the time, he sounds a lot like much of whoever else is out there today, meaning he veers towards the rock side of country (even on Just Le Me Fall...). And that doesn't suit him as well. When he's putting out bright sounding, albeit catchy songs like his current single Sunny And 75, Nichols is not making musical statements aimed at securing his status in the traditional realm. The fast paced country rocker Hard to Be Cool may boast pedal steel, but the song is a bit cliché with the chorus line "She's so hot/It's hard to be cool." Ditto for Yeah about an overly aggressive girl looking for action.
Nichols has a great voice, but he needs to figure just who he is musically, especially at this stage in his career because "Crickets" leaves the listener just as unsure and ultimately not fully satisfied.