Artist: Kip Moore
Album: Up All Night
Label: MCA Nashville
Kip Moore certainly won’t be winning any awards for boldness. His achingly romanticized odes, while charming, loiter throughout this album like a clingy ex that just won’t go away. Practically every song is rooted in the same subject, so much so that after a time, it all blends into one slightly saccharine, heavily produced, earnest yet toothless country ballad. It is pleasant and easygoing listening alright, just dull. Moore has a strong and commanding voice and could easily have used his skills in crafting chart-friendly, sweeping tracks to fashion something a little more ambitious and edgy, but his insistence on playing it safe means much of Up All Night fades easily into the distance.
The lack of aggressive showmanship aside, this is generally quite good. It is neither demanding nor stimulating, but it has a subtle charm and warmth that’s readily appealing for hazy summer nights. The instrumentation is pure country and nothing steps outside the comfort zone, but for fans of the genre this is a sweetly endearing celebration of the genial living underpinning so much of country music. The two opening tracks are shameless tributes to unnamed lady-friends. “Drive Me Crazy” is a gentle and loving song that combines the bright idealism of youth with a foggy nostalgia, brought to life by wistful guitars and velvety vocals. It’s hardly the most vigorous opening to an album, but it sets an assuring tone for what is to come. “Beer Money” comes from a similar place of solid conviction and temperate execution. It has the same heavily romanticized tone of the prior track, led by a robust vocal performance that adds sombre sincerity to the wandering music. However, for all the wholesome accessibility of these songs, “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck” is the first one to add some real life to the album. It feels as though it were conceived with more than an acoustic audience in mind, and broods with enough cheeky undertones to make it almost audacious. The lyrics celebrate the simple and carefree pleasures in life, creating a homely and relatable tone that will endear more listeners than any of the elusive belles peopling his love songs.
“Everything But You” is likeable but predictable; its overbearing notes wearing thin and fast. “Crazy One More Time” is a decent track. There’s a nostalgic air to its opening notes and a brisker pace that offsets the willowy lyrics. The sentiment is more understated and personal and the tenderness of the music reflects this.
Further along, “Reckless (Still Growin’ Up)” offers laconic, amiable musings on the trials and tribulations of life. It’s slow-burning but enthusiastic, with a slightly brasher and more adventurous approach that wins it favour. “Up All Night” is heavy on the syrupy feeling and this weighs it down somewhat unfairly, particularly during the heavy-handed chorus. Its frisky drum work is a partial saviour, lending the track form and coherence amidst the mire of emotive singing.
“Fly Again” comes from a slightly darker place (emphasis on slightly), as Moore laces his vocals with toughness and attitude and frees himself from the rose-tinted spectacles. The song is too slow and never really gathers pace, but the discordant mixture of dreamy keys and guarded guitars reflect the lyrical themes quite well. “Faith When I Fall” is an underwhelming finale, working its way through four largely aimless minutes without any real flair or spectacle. It befits the unremarkable nature of the album and its wholesome and everyday themes, but is also indicative of Moore’s refusal to be braver and bolder and actually develop his work. Up All Night is rigid in its adherence to simplicity throughout, and seems horribly pedestrian by the time it ends.
As a debut album, this has promise, but only in that it is serene and accessible. Crafting a wholesome mood is all well and good, but Moore’s banal approach is ruinous to his songs. A more crafted, creative mindset might help develop his music and create something truly engaging, as too much of this is insubstantial and colourless.
Review written by Grace Duffy