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Chase Rice

Lambs & Lions – 2017 (Broken Bow)

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

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CDs by Chase Rice

As counterintuitive as it might seem, Chase Rice and the late George Michael have a lot in common. Both were their respective label's golden boy, and when each artist tried to do something different, they fell out of favor. In Rice's case, he sensed the demise of bro country and wanted to shift gears. Columbia Nashville preferred to have him stay the course. Rice said, "I was fed up with trying, whether that was trying to be something I'm not, trying to make music that people said I should make or trying to make music I felt people wanted to hear." After signing with Broken Bow Records in June, he was finally able to experience a creative rebirth and put out "Lambs and Lions," an album he had been working on for years. As if representing his mindset, the collection feels a bit conflicted.

The opener, "Lions," is a curious choice. It opens with the combination of organ and guitar, breaks into an EDM backed chant and during an interlude incorporates The Lord's Prayer. By contrast, the guitar intro to "On Tonight" will convince you that there must be a Mark Knopfler credit in the liner notes. There's not. It is Troy Lancaster deftly finger picking a Telecaster letting the melody roll in the traditional vein with a little swing. Rice didn't completely abandon the bro country that brought him success. There is the obligatory drinking song, "Jack Daniels Showed Up." and the machismo closer, "This Cowboy's Hat," featuring Ned LeDoux (the late Chris LeDoux's son) as a saloon standoff with a biker vilan. In total, just three of the tracks are what his old label may have championed. The seven that he has a co-write credit on are clearly the departure he seems to be looking for.