Album Spotlight: Randy Houser, ‘Fired Up’
Comparisons between Luke Bryan and Randy Houser will become more convincing after one listens to the 17 songs on Fired Up, Houser's fifth studio album. The two vocalists share many of the same writers, embrace similar themes and (with this album) lean into more progressive production.
Of course, Houser's big country voice separates him from Bryan and just about any male in country music. Fans looking for the next "Anything Goes" or "Like a Cowboy" will find it during songs like "Senior Year" and "Back." The first will make everyone's list of Top 3 songs from Fired Up (March 11). Houser wrote the song with good friend Rob Hatch, and it's his best vocal performance on the record. The Jeffrey Steel co-written "Back" is also strong, and perhaps more single-ready.
Neither are the best vocal performance on the album, however. Chris Stapleton joins Houser for "One Way," a honest country ballad that rounds out this enormous album. The pairing is an embarrassment of riches — think Adele singing backup for Frank Sinatra, or Ronnie Dunn pitching in on a Mariah Carey song. Stapleton also wrote the song, and it's among the best lyrics on Fired Up:
"Ain't it funny how it used to be / It used to be so right / All the world was a slow kiss and fast car on a Friday night / Everything that's a memory / Gets lost on yesterday / Time is a river / It only runs one way."
On the other end of the sonic spectrum you'll find "Mine Tonight" and "Chasing Down a Good Time," a Houser co-write that could have found room on Bryan's Kill the Lights. Thematically the singer sticks to familiar country love stories or memories of childhood, but there's a little more thump, bump and jump in many arrangements. "True" (written about fiancee Tatiana Starzynski) also pushes Houser sonically before morphing into a more standard production.
Houser doesn't jump head first into any one direction, however – something that's difficult to do when you've included 17 songs. Fans who don't care for the more layered production of "Before Midnight" will like the raw, easier to digest "Same Ole Saturday Night." Those who think "Lucky Me" is sleepy will turn "Little Bit Older" to 11. Fired Up isn't as much of cohesive thought as it is a collection of ideas presented to fans to pick through.
Key Tracks: "We Went," "Senior Year," "Little Bit Older," "One Way"
Did You Know?: Houser says he's been writing like he's dying lately. Songs keep pouring out of him, and he's anxious to record again, although they may not make his next album.
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