When you tune into rocker turned country singer Aaron Lewis' fourth solo outing, "State I'm In," you'll find yourself excited about the potential state of country music with artists like Lewis still standing guard. Writing with an unapologetic hand and an honest, earnest love for the sounds of classic country he was weaned on, Lewis' music here steps forth with powerful emotion, great musicianship, and you can dance to it too.
Backing Lewis' play is a virtual who's who of musical wunderkinds, boasting help from artists like Dan Tyminski, Ron Block, Paul Franklin and Vince Gill with others like Alison Krauss, Jamey Johnson, and Ben and Sonya Isaacs, among others, providing backing vocal support. The influence of these artists is profound, aiding Lewis in crafting a sound that is honest and transparent and reminiscent of the great country of the '70s and '80s yet still altogether his.
Highlights are many among the 10 tracks with the shuffling "The Party's Over" starting things out solidly with it's broken hearted lyric and earnest vocals while "Can't Take Back" has a slightly swampy feel to it, Lewis aligning himself with a slew of bad choices on a track that burns with inner fire. "It Keeps Workin'" recalls "Death on Music Row" with its scathing indictment of current country climes while "Reconsider" sounds like vintage George Strait as the artist tenderly sings through the self-loathing ballad.
That same heartbreak colors in the lines of the title track before opening up into the slow burn of "God and Guns" as Lewis sings allegiance with "the common man." "If I Were The Devil" provides some simmering mid-tempo play, and "Burnt The Sawmill Down," complete with an unreleased lyric drawn from the late Keith Whitley, rocks things with throbbing bass notes and Lewis' signature growl.
With every solo release, Lewis, despite the evidence of his tortured lyrics, seems to find himself more and more comfortable in this role of country troubadour. Packed with songwriting that ripples with honesty and musicianship that stands strong, this is arguably Lewis' best effort to date.