Brett Eldredge - 'Illinois'

September 11 marked the release date of Brett Eldredge's newest album, Illinois. Proceeded by the release of lead single Lose My Mind, each of the album's twelve songs were co-written by Brett - who also had a hand in Illinois' production (alongside Ross Copperman and Brad Crisler).

What is immediately obvious is that the rockier influences that were only slightly there in Brett's debut have really been amped up. For instance, Illinois opens with Fire, with it's solid pacey drum beat and electric guitar hook and Bring You Back opened with Tell Me Where To Park. Admittedly, I prefer Fire (which has a brilliantly catchy melody in the chorus!) but if you listen to the two tracks you will notice Fire has a heavier focus on a rockier production, this seems to be the case for a large part of the album.

Whilst Illinois is full of incredibly catchy tracks, it was some of the slower songs on the album that really caught my attention. With a soft electric guitar opening, Wanna Be That Song immediately slows the pace after the preceeding track, Lose My Mind. Brett delivers a strong vocal, the emotion behind it particularly evident in the chorus. The production is at a level where you don't lose the lyrics behind too much production but equally it fits into the rest of the album nicely. Lose It All is another very strong track. There is a sense of sadness to the track from the lyrics, vocals and production that, strangely, creates a really compelling moment on the album. You as a listener are really drawn into the story through the clever lyrics and the passion behind Brett's vocal.

Illinois has to be the real gem on the album for me. With a similar lyrical idea to that of Signs from Brett's first album, it feels as though this track is incredibly personal to him. It also holds one of my favourite vocal hooks in the whole album, "oh the heart will wander, beyond the wild blue yonder, when I get lost in the noise like a whisper I hear the voice of a boy oh from Illinois". Instrumentally the track builds and fades really nicely, with a reoccurring piano hook that sets the overall feel to Illinois, opening, fading as the track builds and then being reintroduced to close the track. Illinois begs to be played on repeat, it's lyrically very touching, Brett delivers a incredibly strong vocal and the production is perfect for the track.

Unfortunately we come to the penultimate track, Shadow. I have seen quite a big positive response to Shadow but I just really don't get it. I honestly can't see why on earth you would put a track like this on this album, Shadow is just messy, with excessive production that quickly makes for uncomfortable listening. Admittedly Brett's vocal can stand strong against the very rocky production but the overall track just sounds awkward in my opinion. As, happily, the second shortest track on the album it is over after just over two minutes thirty seconds but, sandwiched between the soft Lose It All and the reggae influenced album closer Going Away For A While and sounding nothing like Brett has ever released before it leaves you wondering what prompted Shadow's inclusion on Illinois. Sorry but it's just poor, I'm not impressed at all.

Track listing....
1) Fire - Brett Eldredge, Ross Copperman, Jon Nite
2) You Can't Stop Me (feat. Thomas Rhett) - Brett Eldredge, Ross Copperman, Heather Morgan
3) Lose My Mind - Brett Eldredge, Ross Copperman, Heather Morgan, Brian Burton, Thomas Callaway, Gian Franco Reverberi, Gian Piero Reverberi
4) Wanna Be That Song - Brett Eldredge, Ross Copperman, Scooter Carusoe
5) Time Well Spent - Brett Eldredge, Scooter Carusoe, Chris DeStefano
6) If You Were My Girl - Brett Eldredge, Ross Copperman, Jon Nite
7) Illinois - Brett Eldredge, Brad Crisler, Tom Douglas
8) Just A Taste - Brett Eldredge, Ross Copperman, Heather Morgan
9) Drunk On Your Love - Brett Eldredge, Ross Copperman
10) Lose It All - Brett Eldredge, Brad Crisler, Bill Anderson
11) Shadow - Brett Eldredge, Ross Copperman, Heather Morgan
12) Going Away For A While  - Brett Eldredge, Ross Copperman, Heather Morgan

Illinois as an album is crammed full of upbeat, incredibly catchy songs that I'm sure will make for a very strong live show. Personally however, I miss the amount of slower, more stripped back tracks that listeners heard in Brett's first album. When you compare tracks like Mean To Me, Raymond and One Mississippi to what is offered here, you only really have Illinois with a similar sound (Wanna Be That Song and Lose It All both becoming rockier at various points in the track). 

Other than Shadow there are no intrinsically poor tracks but I feel as though this album has definitely been produced with a different overall sound in mind than Bring You Back was. It is definitely a development on the sound that listeners heard throughout Bring You Back but I hope with Brett's next release we don't see the softer side vanish completely, his distinctive tone is gorgeous on the slower, more heartfelt tracks. I honestly feel that whilst Illinois is still a very good album with some very strong tracks (Lose My Mind, Fire and Time Well Spent being well worth a listen as well as the three tracks mentioned previously) it misses a certain spark.