As good ol' boys go, Luke Bryan is rather good indeed. Just look at the album photo to your right. This smiling country boy is totally not going to cut your throat at a rest stop, or burn a cross on your front lawn, or rape your wife like those hicks in Straw Dogs.
"Country Girl (Shake It For Me)" tells another story. On it, he compels a vulnerable young woman to hop on a tractor and "Shake it for the birds, shake it for the bees / Shake it for the catfish swimmin' down deep in the creek / For the crickets and the critters and the squirrels."
This is the Luke Bryan I prefer: the one with no shame. The one who compels his beloved, like Woodsworth, to "dance, like a dandelion."
Dance Country Girl!
"Girl, you make my speakers go boom-boom! / Dancin' on the tailgate in the full moon," Luke Bryan intone on "Drunk on You."
Along with "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)," it makes a case for entry into the pantheon of tractor classics. This is where Bryan hits his stride: boasting about the girls dancing on his truck or tractor, or encouraging them to dance on his truck or tractor.
On the other hand, I can do without the sad-dude balladry of "Too Damn Young." Here Bryan effortlessly describes the pains and pleasures of being young, dumb, and full of emotions. He speaks of the painful memories that continue to haunt him. For example: "Every time my feet are dangling in the water / I can't help but think about her lying there with her wet hair."
Let's Get Serious, or Something
Bryan, unfortunately, can't just layer an album with fun tracks about breaking the hearts of naive young girls, or remembering times when he once loved someone dearly who would climb on his tailgate and shake. He has a serious side too.
It makes its first appearance on "You Don't Know Jack," which sounds like the dark flipside to his great song about blacking out, "All My Friends Say." Its message: alcoholism sucks. "If you think it's just a bottle in a paper a sack," he sings, "you don't know Jack." He's talking about Jack Daniels, people. This tune isn't funny.
And what can I say about "Tailgate Blues"? It makes me think Bryan wrote this album over many a long night of sitting in his truck in the woods and drinking beer out of a Dixie cup and pondering the mystery of it all.
As befits a man who made his fame with "We Road in Tractors," Bryan flashes his farmer's tan on the barnyard tune "Harvest Time." The song is about just that. Not since Tom Sawyer has one person made hard manual labor look so enticing.
Tailgates or Tanlines?
Luckily you don't have to choose. Tailgates and Tanlines offers a bit of both. It's middle-of-the-road country-pop that shouldn't cause any accidents on the road. Maybe some dents on your truck or tractor hood? Let's hope.
Bonus: Luke Bryan Drinking Game
While listening to this album, drink every time Bryan mentions farm equipment or a full moon. Guess what? You're drunk.
Best songs on Tailgates and Tanlines
- "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)"
- "Drunk on You"
- "You Don't Know Jack"
Track list for Tailgates and Tanlines
1. "Country Girl (Shake It for Me)"
2. "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye"
3. "Drunk On You"
4. "Too Damn Young"
5. "I Don't Want This Night to End"
6. "You Don't Know Jack"
7. "Harvest Time"
8. "I Know You're Gonna Be There"
9. "Muckalee Creek Water"
10. "Tailgate Blues"
11. "Been There, Done That"
12. "Faded Away"
13. "I Knew You That Way"
14. "That Don't Just Happen" (bonus track)