There are stacks of country music albums released in the USA each year, and I don’t even attempt to cover them, mainly because this blog is focused on Australian country music. However, something prompted me to listen to the debut album from young artist Mo Pitney, who was born in Illinois and now lives, naturally enough, in Nashville.
As soon as the first song, ‘Country’, started, I had absolutely no wish to stop listening. Pitney’s voice is, simply, irresistible: deep, warm, emotional. The clue to his vocal inspiration is in track 7, ‘I Met Merle Haggard Today’ – and Australian country music fans will hear in Pitney echoes of Troy Cassar-Daley, an avowed Haggard fan, and Adam Harvey – but what is remarkable is that Pitney has such maturity to a voice that has not been singing for that many years.
Lyrically, the songs on this album describe life, love and faith in the country. They are sincere without being twee. The production is relatively light on instrumentation, meaning this doesn’t sound like a heavily produced vehicle for radio-friendly songs but more a carefully thought-out collection of numbers that accurately depict Pitney, who co-wrote ten of the album’s twelve tracks.
The toe-tapping, catchy hallmarks of modern American country music are certainly there on Behind This Guitar. What’s missing is the sense of manipulation that can come from certain bells-and-whistles numbers. There may be very few original ways to sing about life and love but Pitney’s sincerity – his ability to connect with the listener – means that this album is a genuinely entertaining and genuinely moving experience. It is a beautiful piece of work.
Behind This Guitar is out now through Sony Music Australia.