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Sam Hunt

Southside – 2020 (MCA Nashville)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Sam Hunt

There are some interesting moments on Sam Hunt's "Southside" album, but interesting doesn't always equal good. The single "Hard To Forget" samples Webb Pierce's "There Stands The Glass," one of country music's best and most enduring drinking songs. It's ironic, though, how Hunt needed to sample an old country song in order to incorporate any hint of actual country music into his album. Interesting, yes, but it may make you reach back for a little more Pierce music, rather than continue on with the remainder of the music.

Another striking song, "Sinning with You," expresses that Bible Belt cognitive dissonance of knowing how extramarital (at least one assumes it is extramarital) sex is a sin yet admitting how it also feels so right. The track begins promisingly with an acoustic guitar accompaniment, before devolving into one of many snap track rhythmic grooves. With a lyric that wouldn't have sounded out of place as a confessional piece on a Prince album, Hunt admits: "I hate when I can't feel the Holy Spirit/I know what it feels like crossin' the line/But I never felt shame, never felt sorry/Never felt guilty touching your body." Hunt may not exactly be theologically correct here, but at least he's honest.

Unfortunately, one of the songs that doesn't sample old records to sound truly country ("Breaking Up Was Easy In The 90's"), also doesn't convincingly make the case suggested by its title. One happily hears snatches of Dobro and steel guitar, which are welcome elements, but was breaking up truly easier in the '90s, before all the advances in social media technology? Neil Sedaka reminded us years ago that breaking up is hard to do, and no internet advances will ever mitigate against that fact.

Although "Southside" isn't so pop that you can't tell Hunt is a country artist, the music is rarely compelling, comforting nor surprising. "Hard To Forget" may be a weird amalgamation, but at least it's innovative. The same can't be said for the rest of the music, which tends to wear down the listener after a while. Also, rather than singing these songs, Hunt vocalizes with a whiney world-weariness most reminiscent of Drake.

In another Drake-ian gesture, "Drinkin' Too Much" finds Hunt airing his dirty laundry in song. We don't feel empathy for Drake because his litany of first world problems are so insignificant. Same goes for Hunt songs. Country music, at its best, expresses a kind of universal perspective on life, and one with which we can all relate. "Southside," though, is all about Hunt's relatively unrelatable problems and a generally uninteresting presentation of said troubles.