Justin Moore’s always had a thing about doing it his way. Call it stubborn redneck mettle, a well-developed case of “who I am” or just the fierce commitment to blaze a trail inherent to people from his home of Poyen, Arkansas. It doesn’t matter why, just that the blazing sense of off the beaten path drives his album of the same name.
Again teaming with fellow writer/producer Jeremy Stover, the pair turn up the guitars, lean into the swagger and refine the powerful good ole boy perspective that allows for all the bravado. There’s a strong vein of tenderness and decency holding Moore’s kind of country together. Look no further than Rhett Atkins/Ben Hayslip/Ross Copperman-written “Point At You,” the lead single, that acknowledges every wild hair Moore has, but hits the bottom line of his goodness via the woman who became his bride.
Those dualities are the truest thing about most red-blooded American males. Get loud, get rowdy, but get home and emerge solid family men dedicated to some basic ideals that have defined this country. One need look no further than The Warren Brothers/Lance Miller/Austin Cunningham-penned opener “Old Back In The New School” to understand Moore is all about the things that last, the wild times and the enduring values making for a way of life worth living.
When he hits that chorus “Just ‘cause something’s hip don’t make it cool/ Let’s put a little old back in the new school...” with his hard twang tenor, Moore’s authority is as real as the bite in his voice. It is that willingness to be “country” that gives Moore’s kind of country its edge.
It’s that kind of edge that draws a singer like Miranda Lambert to duet on the somber heartbreaker “Old Habits.” Being too proud to figure it out and too set in one’s ways to let go, it mines the classic country motifs with a wide-open throb that is every bit of regret honkytonk jukeboxes are made of.
Moore has always had an interesting way of negotiating the good ole boy/redneck reality that’s defined today’s hardcore country fan. A little bit rowdy, a little bit sentimental, a whole lotta roughneck, Moore has dented the country radio charts with three #1s in the anything but big city “Small Town USA,” the sentimental family embracing “If Heaven Weren’t So Far Away” and the fidelity pledge “Til My Last Day,” in addition to the Top 10 mission declaration “Backwoods.”
But the hits don’t really tell the whole story. This is the man whose first single – a digital only release – was “I Could Kick Your Ass,” who flexed his sense of humor with the new guy mocking “Bait A Hook” and unapologetically throw down “How I Got To Be This Way.” And long before booty country became a touchstone, Moore dropped the swaggering “Back That Thing Up.”
Indeed, Booty Country is full force on OFF THE BEATEN PATH. He has the Kim Kardashian and J-Lo invoking “I’d Want It To Be Yours” – co-written with Stover and Brandon Kinney – and the slip into the night guitar grinder “Off The Beaten Path” that slithers through the Patron and the moonlight.Good ole boys doing what they’re good at. Moore has built a career eschewing the path most taken, building a fanbase of people just like him. Cars, trucks, creeks, cut-offs, dirt roads, water towers, a slower pace and harder way to hit it: those are the ties that bind the proud, the rebel yelling, the good timing kids who don’t give a damn about the media, the above the line, the hardcore hipsters or the white collar noose of office work.
￼Take a certain amount of swagger, add some hard-rocking guitars and add “Country Radio,” a howler that celebrates the ultimate lube for escaping the boredom and expectations. There’s the same kind of bulked up, bearing down picture of pride of “Lettin’ the Night Roll,” pure freedom and the will to be alive.
That will be live life to its fullest, no fear, no looking back, marks Moore’s intensity. Two strong hands, a back that can shoulder anything, this is working man’s post-modern American – and that respect is what binds him to his woman in “That’s How I Know You Love Me.” Ultimately, she refuses to make him change, and takes what’s there for what it is, loving him for all its busted glory.
To believe in values that last, to embrace what is enough and know it’s more than plenty, that is the greatest truth for a man like Moore, who sees no reason to leave the place he grew up. Beyond the hits, the gold-certified albums and the momentum of a career hitting its stride, OFF THE BEATEN PATH is a collection of classic postcards that make up the ascending “This Kind of Town” and the driving chugger “One Dirt Road.”
You don’t have to take it from Moore, though. No less than the great Charlie Daniels, a man who’s hung tough for hardcore old school values is featured on “For Some Ol’ Redneck Reason,” a pledge of allegiance to living true to principles and never giving into convention. This is one of the truest event moments as Moore dials it back, unfurling the map of his heart and soul. Like Daniels, “A Country Boy Can Survive” vintage Hank Williams Jr. and the most mainstream-era of David Allen Coe, Justin Moore knows who he is, what matters and he’s not going to bend or compromise those things in the name of chasing what everyone else is already doing.