Red Marlow came fourth on the US version of The Voice (Season 13) but on the strength of this he maybe should have done better than that. He was, as one might expect, mentored by Blake Shelton, and he may actually be as country as cornbread. Across this album he brings us just about every facet of 21st century country music. From the slightly contrived and a bit too modern sounding for me title track to contemporary ballads like If Every Day Was Sunday Marlow sets the bar pretty high for what a contemporary country album can be these days.

Then he goes and clears that bar with Let There Be Neon. It’s a modern honky tonk killer that lives up to its slow intro in every way. Instantly catchy, it reminds me of Brooks & Dunn at their very best and I’ll bet his former voice mentor wishes he could record something as good as this. I implore you, if you do nothing else, go and buy this track from iTunes, and if digital downloads aren’t your thing it probably is good enough to justify the purchase of a CD. If you were to do that I’d be pretty sure you’d also enjoy Thank God For A Woman which could have been made for George Strait and has a slight Kenny Chesney feel about it even if I found it rather hard to resist trying to sing ‘Thank God For The Radio’. It’s probably more due to the “thank God” words than it is the song itself. Either way, Alan Jackson wouldn’t mind calling it his own methinks.

I wasn’t nearly so keen on the thumping drums that were mixed right up in my face on That’s Where We Live, but I can quite understand why Marlow might have included it. Thankfully, the majority of the album is more restrained in its production and features some well-written songs that could’ve come from 20 years ago. If Every Day Was Sunday is nicely down-homey yet commercial, and the ballad Four Ounces At A Time retreads the familiar theme of drinking someone off your mind in a fresh way. It’s another song that would be at home in George or Alan territory.

Perhaps, if Red Marlow had won The Voice, he might have been bringing us a major label release and all the hype and tour supports that go along with it, but I’m darn sure he wouldn’t have made an album as good as this. Country As Cornbread stands as a fine example of how a new album can be contemporary yet still respect its roots. Of course, personally I’d have liked ten Let There Be Neons but even I realize that to do that might hurt his commercial success. As it stands, Red Marlow has shown up just about every artist on the current Billboard chart with this release. And then there’s Let There Be Neon – did I mention that?

CMP | September 2018 Issue | Duncan Warwick