The Bottom Line
- "Runway Lights"
- "I'm American"
- Only eight songs
- Red, white, and blue tunes from the singer of "Achy Breaky Heart"
- A USO Tour in a box
- "Springsteen-esque" songs for those who are a little muddy on the lyrics to "Born in the U.S.A."
Guide Review - Billy Ray Cyrus - I'm American
Dealing with issues of patriotism can be controversial -- Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" being a prime example -- but Billy Ray Cyrus' album I'm American steers toward a middle ground.
The album's eight tunes -- including a rerecording of Cyrus' "Some Gave All" with Darryl Worley, Craig Morgan, and Jamey Johnson -- are roughly split between story songs about the sacrifices of servicemen and fist-pumping monuments to the stars and stripes. The former fare better than the latter.
Here are some questions Cyrus won't deal with the album:
Are their limits to one's devotion to country? What does it mean to support the troops but be against the war? How does it feel to sacrifice everything for your country and then die from friendly fire?
Cyrus' patriotism isn't complicated, and he seems least on-message when dealing with individual lives. "Runway Lights," probably the album's best song, tells the story of a Navy pilot longing for home while fighting abroad. "Old Army Hat" is an affecting tale of a boy's relationship to his proud veteran grandfather.
Yet the songs can be vague to a frustrating degree. "Nineteen," based on the life of football player Pat Tillman, is a fine tribute to a man who, in Cyrus' words, "took one for the team." But it seems more than a little convenient that it doesn't mention that Tillman was killed by his own troops.
The anthemic "Stripes and Stars" and "I'm American" are a little too blustery for their own good. But I expect they'll find some play at campaign rallies.
Truth be told, I'm more of a "This Land Is Your Land" than a "God Bless America" guy.