Countrified – 2006 (Midas)
Reviewed by Eli Messinger
With Richard Marx having ceded his chair to Nashville producers (including Alabama bassist Teddy Gentry), Canadian sextet Emerson Drive's third release turns to sounds that are indeed more "countrified." There's more fiddle, banjo and tight multipart harmonies, even as the string-lined ballads and electric pop-rockers retain the band's core crossover appeal. The album's opening riff will remind many of The Go-Go's "Head Over Heels."
The songs, from a variety of Nashville songwriters, are modern fare that may have you tapping your toe and singing along with the radio. The band's instrumental and vocal prowess put a fresh coat on well-worn themes of living a contented life, broken hearts and simile-laden love songs. Most impressive is Brad Mates emotional lead vocal on the beautifully written "Moments" and Danick Dupelle's acoustic flat picking on "Testify."
This is a highly talented band with a clear, populist vision for their music. The production is smooth without becoming dispassionate, and the performances have a lot more heart than the perfunctory output of Nashville's studio-players. This may still be too pop for some country fans, but it's certainly high-quality country-pop.
(Country Standard Time)
Emerson Drive’s 2002 and 2004 album releases for the Dreamworks label peaked at #13 and #12 respectively on the Billboard Country Album Charts, with very little promotional support from the label… just think what the prospects are for this new Emerson Drive album now that they are the flagship act for the recently launched Midas Records, viewed as one of the top new Indie labels in Nashville. What makes the potential for some huge success here even more exciting is the fact that Countrified is a far superior album to the previous releases, with Emerson Drive putting it into full gear…and even sounding a lot more ‘country’, in doing so.
The album’s “Countrified” title is taken from one of the key tracks on the package, Countrified Soul. In country music the term ‘Countryfied” was first coined as the title of a song by Canadian Hall of Famer Dick Damron, which was subsequently recorded by George Hamilton IV in 1971 and used by Hamilton IV as the theme on his Canadian-filmed TV series of the 70’s… and now Emerson Drive take the keyword to a new dimension with their “Countrified” music here.
As in previous Emerson Drive albums, lead singer Brad Mates remains the focal point of the act with his high-powered vocal work; but the six-man band are all front-and-centre, performing all of their own music and harmony vocals in the studio in support of Mates’ talents.
The album has already yielded a major hit for Emerson Drive with the lead single A Good Man. There are several more entries here that are certain to create a similar impact. The fiery Testify --- one of two songs here (along with Countrified Soul) that Brad Mates had a hand in co-writing with Josh Leo and Alabama alumni Teddy Gentry, both of whom are credited with co-producing five of the songs on the album --- is destined to be one of Emerson Drive’s ‘best yet’ showings on the hit charts. The inspirational Lucky Man and the love song, Everyday Woman, shouldn’t be far behind in that category.
The song Moments, is a touching item, balancing hope against despair – if nothing else, this will make for a pretty special video. Also featured is the Johnny Reid song You Still Own Me, already a huge hit for Reid on Canadian radio, but likely one that Emerson Drive can still score with on an American audience.
The album closes with a rousing cover of the Charlie Daniels Band classic southern/rocker The Devil Went Down To Georgia. The song has long been a staple in Emerson Drive’s live concerts, but when Charlie Daniels himself offered to play a guest appearance on their studio recording of the song, it became an obvious choice to be “Countrified” one more time.
Emerson Drive - Countrified
From Jolene Downs
Guide Rating - * * * * *
Anyone who dismisses Emerson Drive as 'just another boy band' is missing out on some great music. Countrified is their third album and their first release with Midas Records. It is a solid album that showcases their vocal unity as well as their incredible musical talent. It is well worth adding it to any collection. It is a fun album to listen to.
The Long Road to the Here and Now
Emerson Drive exploded out of Canada in 2001. They signed with Dreamworks records and became one of the very few artists in the business to play all their own instruments on their records. Emerson Drive consists of bandmates Brad Mates on lead vocals, Dale Wallace on keyboards, Danick Dupelle on guitar, David Pichette on fiddle, Mike Melancon on drums and Patrick Bourque on bass guitar. They took several industry awards including CMA's Top New Vocal Group/Duo in 2003. They also had two Top 5 hits with "Fall into Me" and "I Should Be Sleeping." Right after their second album, What If, was released in 2004 their label went through corporate restructuring leaving the band without a label. They decided to settle down in Nashville to be readily available for anything that might pop up. They started working on their own songwriting skills and fate played into their hands when Teddy Gentry, of Alabama fame, and Producer Josh Leo came to hear them shortly after their release. Under their direction the band started getting serious. It was a project that they had no idea when or where it would be released, they just worked at making it the best they could. That dedication is very evident in the finished album.
And the Here and Now is 'Countrified'
Midas RecordsNewly formed label, Midas Records, listened to what Emerson Drive had to offer and signed them a short time later. songwriter Keith Follese and Publisher Brad Allen helped in the song selection and production process for some tracks and Teddy Gentry and Josh Leo on others. There are some party songs such as "Testify" and "Countrified Soul." There are some heart wrenching ballads such as "Moments" and "Everyday Woman." When they started to record a song they perform in their live shows Charlie Daniels himself showed up to sing with them on "Devil Went Down to Georgia." It was a fitting end to a great album. It also includes an interactive web connect feature when played on a PC/Mac. It offers access to exclusive content, chat with other fans and sometimes meeting the performers themselves. This album seems to reflect what Emerson Drive is all about and that is excellence. They excelled in the song selections and they excelled in the delivery of the chosen material. They are able to portray something close to what you will find in their live shows in this little round disc. That is something that many artists try for and few can achieve with a studio album. It is a real keeper.
"What If" Reviews
They Should Be Successful
While it's true that the country charts are dominated by solo male and female acts, there is plenty of room for talented bands like Emerson Drive. The Canadian sextet first tasted success two years ago with its self-titled debut, which produced a pair of big hits -- "I Should Be Sleeping" and "Fall Into Me." The album's pop-inflected sound was due in part to the fact that '80s heartthrob Richard Marx was at the controls in the studio, and Richard again takes the helm for the Drive's sophomore set, What If? (DreamWorks Nashville). First single and lead-off track "Last One Standing" is a perfect snapshot of the group at its finest, with Danick Dupelle's guitar riffs perfectly complemented by David Pichette's fiddling. "November," the latest release from the disc, might be a little less country than some of the Drive's other radio cuts, but the tune, co-written by accomplished Nashville tunesmiths Brett James and Angelo, offers some truly spine-tingling vocals from frontman Brad Mates. There's also "Lemonade," a moderately slow number that reminisces about the good times and which features prominent keyboard work from Dale Wallace, as well as an energetic and thoroughly modern cover of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Fishin' in the Dark."
There's no doubt that Emerson Drive is six stellar musicians getting together to play incredible music. Whether or not that music is truly country is debatable. Could be the influence of pop icon Richard Marx, but I think this album leans much more heavily to the fluffy side of the genre. That's not to say this isn't a good CD, because when it comes to sophomore projects, this one removes all chances of the fabled jinx. Brad Mates vocally impresses, and he's backed by the solid skills of Danick Dupelle, Patrick Bourque, Mike Melancon, David Pichette and Dale Wallace. Standout tracks include "Lemonade" and the kiss-off song (one of the songs that has a country message with a pop sound) "Running Back To You." Mates surprises with his deft handling of the classic "Fishin' In The Dark," long a staple of Emerson Drive's live show. Check it out if you like good music, but pass What If? by if you're a traditional fan.
What If - Emerson Drive
from Jennifer Webb
Guide Rating - 4.5 stars/5
The Bottom Line
'What If' provides a fresh mix of music with a special energy to each track. If you liked 'Emerson Drive' chances are you will like this collection of fourteen tracks.
"Waitin' On Me"
"Fishin' In The Dark"
Emerson Drive's sophomore album.
Contains first single "Last One Standing."
Produced by Richard Marx and Scott Borchetta.
Guide Review - What If - Emerson Drive
With an Emerson Drive album you know you are in for an updated sound with tons of energy & 'What If?' is no different. Brad Mates & the gang give everything their all & you know they are all enjoying what they are doing. Richard Marx & Free Waybill wrote the first single,' "Last One Standing," where the subject of unconditional friendship & love is touched upon. Calling in sick to head off to where it is warm is the topic of "Lemonade," a mid-tempo tune. The couple had fun acting like fools because they were together but years later the guy wonders why they had to change and become so grown-up.
There's never a second chance to hold on to a day that might be someone's last as proven in "What If?" Live each day as if it is the last because you noone knows when their time will be up. "I'll Die Trying" is an emotional ballad that's sure to tug at ladies heart-strings as everything within the man's power is what he will do make his lady happier. Well-known Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song "Fishin' In The Dark" is covered with a little bit of added rock flair.
"Simple Miracles" is another pretty ballad song about loving every part of spending time with his wife & being thankful for things that would otherwise be fairly fogettable or get lost in the shuffle of life. "Still Got Yesterday" is about looking back & thinking of reasons to smile, while the closing bonus track "Rescued" talks of a lady that "saved a drowning man in an ocean of pain" & gave him a heart to hold on to.
CD: What If?
DreamWorks Records (Nashville)
Produced by: Richard Marx
Release Date: June 29th, 2004
Emerson Drive's sophomore album is slated to release on June 29th. Emerson Drive released their debut album on DreamWorks in 2002. Emerson Drive released three hit singles which included "I Should Be Sleeping," "Fall Into Me," and "Only God (Could Stop Me Loving You)." Their latest single, "Last One Standing" is on their new album, "What If?"
Although, Emerson Drive's debut album on DreamWorks was a great effort that penned 3 hits, this sophomore album from them overpasses their debut by a milestone. The group has a more mature sound and musically speaking, they are becoming one of the best groups in country music.
The band's rendition of "Fishin' In The Dark" is one of the best renditions that I have heard in a long time. Emerson Drive definitely did the song proud and they are right up there with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on that song.
Pick hit: - Reasoning behind choosing "Last One Standing" as their first single off of "What If?" - (Brad Mates) Basically, what happened was we were finished with the whole album. "Last One Standing" came across the desk at the last second. And we felt that it was a strong song, and basically showcased the band in every way and we felt it was the icing on the cake for the album. That's why we picked "Last One Standing."
Top picks on this album: "Waitin' On Me," "Runnin' On Back To You," "Fishin' In The Dark," and "I'll Die Tryin'."
4 out of 5
"Emerson Drive" Reviews
Watch out, Rascal Flatts. Here comes Emerson Drive, rolling out of Canada with an eye on your formula: rock masquerading as country, high-octane energy, layered harmonies, and enough testosterone to power a truck pull. While they wrote none of the material on this debut disc, the six-piece band is hung up on "bed" songs, from "I Should Be Sleeping," the hit single about a guy's inability do anything but think of his girl, to "Light of Day" and "I See Heaven," which pretty much say the same thing. In fact, every song here is about getting the girl, thanking God for the girl, and pinching yourself to make sure you're not just dreaming you got the girl. That's what you do when you're young and in love, of course. No time for subtlety, powered-down production, or variation, unless you count "It's All About You," a slice of faux R&B in which lead singer Brad Mates vows that--what else?--he'll do anything to get the girl. Ah, obsession. --Alanna Nash
Reviewed by Jennifer Webb
It seems that lately whenever I see a group that is consisted of nothing but men and they all look pretty cute, I will assume that they do not have much talent at all and are only in it for their image instead of music, but from the first time I saw their debut video, I knew that there was something special about the guys from Emerson Drive.
These guys are not new to performing, they were previously in a group called 12-Gage and compromised quite a lot just to get out on the road and make a name for themselves.
After the man wakes up, in "Evidence," he cannot believe that he found a girl as wonderful as he did, but he has the proof in that he can still smell her perfume and sees the lipstick on his white shirt. In other parts of the song we hear more evidence such as a message on his answering machine, or finding a strand of long blond hair that is not his.
On every album there always seems to be that one ballad or slow song that reaches out and grabs tugs at your heartstrings in some form, shape, or fashion, and the one on Emerson Drive would have to be "Only God (Could Stop Me Loving You)." Lead singer Brad Mates puts everything he has out there as he sings such tender lyrics as: "These arms, they will never hold another. These eyes, they are blind to any other. These lips, no other girl will ever kiss. This heart, it will always feel like this."
If you watch country music videos or listen to the radio at all, chances are you have seen or heard "I Should Be Sleeping," which is the upbeat debut single from the group. Releasing this as a first single, in my opinion, is a genius move because this is a tune that will (and does) appeal to pretty much anybody that likes country. The video features the guy's fun side as they ride around in a car or record the song in a studio, but then there is also Brad portraying the frustration of not being able to fall asleep because he keeps thinking about his girlfriend.
"I See Heaven" is another wonderful ballad about there being no comparison between the man's love interest and the most beautiful skies. She opened his eyes to a wonderful relationship, which is something he really has not experienced before; he has waited forever for the moment they shared together and it was absolutely perfect.
A very fun song to listen to is "Hollywood Kiss," which must be in the running for being the one song that has the most famous names in the span of three minutes. You will hear the names of anyone from Jean Harlow to Jennifer Lopez, and even Sophia Loren painting the imagery of just how great his girlfriend's kisses were. They were so amazing that they felt colossal, like something you would see on the big screen.
"It's All About You" is different, but in a very good way. Written by Jeffrey Steele and Reed Nielsen, it has to be my favorite up-tempo tune from this album because of its harder edge and the little bit of attitude that is expressed. Depending on how you sing the lyrics, this could be satirical and be in the same vein as Toby Keith's "I Wanna Talk About Me," but this song is quite the contrary because you can tell that the guy is serious about doing anything to make his girl happy.
For a group that toured for six years and finally landed in Nashville, only to play seven hours a night after four-hour rehearsals, Emerson Drive was a long time coming and boy did they ever hit it big with their self-titled debut on Dreamworks Records. Not only is it generally fun to listen to, you also hear the close bond between the group members in vocals and instruments played.
Emerson Drive's self-titled debut (DreamWorks) is among this week's new CD releases. The album's first single, "I Should Be Sleeping," is resting comfortably in the Top 10 of Billboard's country chart.
The six-piece Canadian band, which takes its name from the Emerson Trail that crosses western Alberta, got its start seven years ago. The guys are veterans of Canada's concert circuit, having performed as many as 300 shows per year.
The disc was produced by Julian King, DreamWorks Nashville head James Stroud and pop singer-songwriter Richard Marx (who has produced tracks for Vince Gill, Shedaisy, Chely Wright and Kenny Rogers, among others). Richard produced two songs on Emerson Drive: "Fall Into Me" and "How Lucky I Am." The catchy, harmony-laden "Fall Into Me" is pegged as the second single.