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Critical Voices: Kip Moore, Up All Night
While it was once said that nothing could quite describe feelings of love and heartbreak like a country song, the largely unimpressive country releases streaming out of Nashville this year would seem to suggest otherwise. But this blatant disregard for lyrical quality paired with poor attempts at instrumental virtuosity may finally have been overcome by the songwriter-turned-singer Kip Moore. Up All Night, Moore’s debut album, introduces a much-needed believability to his lyrics and vocals, which allows the LP to shine above today’s cookie-cutter country.
Up All Night begins with simple Telecaster riffs alternating with a crying pedal steel guitar that melts into Moore’s slightly scratchy drawl on “Drive Me Crazy.” This love-and-loss track begins a story arc that flows through four songs on the album. The couple reunites on “Crazy One More Time,” a request for one last moment of joy. But that instance is soon overshadowed by a sentiment of loneliness, which characterizes “Where You Are Tonight,” a song built around rapid-fire questions and vocals dripping with longing, anger, and eventual resignation. Slowly fading repetitions of “wonderin’ where you are tonight” lead to the ultimate conclusion of this love story in “Fly Again,” when Moore launches into a track filled with distorted guitar riffs and themes of drugs, alcohol, and guns, giving the LP a necessary edge after a collection of slower ballads.
The title track, along with “Beer Money,” contributes to the pace of the record. While these two songs appear at first glance to be classic honky-tonk anthems—complete with beer, trucks, girls, and guitars—the tracks are transformed by Moore’s versatile vocals into something more closely resembling his ballads of unrequited love. His voice is simply too mellow, and he holds the notes out just long enough to add a touch of nostalgia left over from the painful verses of “Everything But You” to the would-be party anthems. Moore is certainly capable of projecting confidence and impulsiveness, which is clear on “Reckless (Still Growin’ Up)” and “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck,” but he occasionally holds back to capture the perfect amount of authenticity in his music.
Kip Moore may not live out his songs like some other country artists, but his personal (and authentic) songwriting makes us believe every word. Up All Night demonstrates Moore’s expert command of vocals and lyrics, making us see what he sees and feel what he feels. And that’s what makes a great country album.
Voice’s Choices: “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck,” “Faith When I Fall”