At a time when so many new country acts are drawing their inspiration from stale ‘80s arena rock and early-‘90s adult contemporary drivel, newcomer Easton Corbin stands as a refreshing change of pace. For his self-titled debut, Corbin sounds like a young George Strait to a distracting degree. In playing up that similarity, he suggests that, if you’re going to be derivative, at least have the good sense to drink from the well of someone widely hailed as a genre legend. In that regard, Easton Corbin aims pretty high.
Unfortunately for Corbin, though, he doesn’t reach the same heights of Strait’s best singles or even of his halfway-interesting recent albums. Instead, the album recalls the series of interchangeable, filler-packed albums Strait recorded in the mid ‘90s. Corbin sings well enough (though, again, in drawing such uncanny parallels to another, infinitely more famous vocalist, he doesn’t do himself any favors or announce the arrival of a distinctive new voice), but lacks the maturity and depth of experience to elevate some of the record’s middling material. Lead single “A Little More Country Than That” is but a slightly more purposeful variation on an interminable series of rote lists of rural-ish points of reference that Nashville’s unambitious go-to songwriters have been attempting to pass off as songs for the past few years. Opener “Roll with It” has an awkward lyrical hook that doesn’t fit the song’s meter, while “A Lot to Learn About Livin’” is an empty-headed knockoff of Kenny Chesney’s stale tropical island shtick.
Ultimately, it’s only the four tracks on which Corbin shares a co-writing credit that show any real personality or point of view, with “That’ll Make You Wanna Drink” and “Leavin’ a Lonely Town” demonstrating a promising awareness of genre conventions and a real sense of wit. But those nicer moments are still too isolated to make for a satisfying debut. Other than the novelty of Corbin’s sound-alike voice and a clean, traditional-leaning production job by Carson Chamberlain, there’s precious little here of interest that might distinguish Corbin from the likes of David Nail, Luke Bryan, and Jason Michael Carroll. If he hopes to have a career with Strait’s longevity and artistic cachet (which is an admirable goal), Corbin is going to need far more than the just the ambition and the gimmick he’s shown here.