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Luke Bryan

Farm Tour...Here's to the Farmer – 2016 (Capitol)

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

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Luke Bryan has been in that "hardware" phase of his career for the last few years. There have been several armloads of awards, many on the strength of the high-caliber singles from 2013's "Crash My Party." It might present a challenge to stay grounded. But Bryan has kept himself busy with work for charities (he's embarking on a traditional tour of farms to benefit his scholarship fund), and the use of the EP - this marks his eighth.

Many artists use the EP format as a means of introduction - a quick songset to showcase their best, and not overstay one's welcome. You have to give Bryan credit for finding other uses - for one, he gets to put out releases more often without overwhelming the listener. An EP also allows for thematically-linked songs, as in his highly-popular "Spring Break" series. This time out, Bryan's short stack is designed in part to be a concert souvenir. Ticket buyers to certain shows in 2016 will also get a digital code to download this album as a perk - of course, with a star of this shine, it's available everywhere.

Despite the title, these five songs aren't strictly a love letter to food growers. That sentiment is, however, covered pretty exhaustively in the "Here's to Farmer" track. ("Tell him how far he's got to go/And he'll go farther"). He even ends it with a spoken thank you. Ironically, plots of farmland get more airtime. They're good for daydrinking ("I Do All My Dreaming There") or night-romancing ("Love Me In A Field"). Bryan has developed a go-to bed of new country sound with piano and banjo, topped with a quick-flow brand of singing as slinging. It's certainly well-produced, pleasant and peppy.

But something about the generic topics feel too overvisited to beg return listens. And no matter how much it's memorialized, beer really doesn't taste any different in a briar patch. The closer, "Southern Gentleman" is truer to Bryan's earlier best - a slow burn with a big emotional chorus. All he's really singing about is being polite. But this is a modern country ace, who - when he's on - can croon about chasing suntans like they're life or death. Now that's how you make some hardware.