Much in the same way NASCAR racing has found its niche as a shrewdly marketed, eager-to-please populist sport, country music has surged in recent years as Everyman’s entertainment. Northern Indiana’s Jeff Gainey embodies the new breed of country entertainers with an energetic, crowd-pleasing style.
Gainey’s new CD, The Way I Like It!, spans honky-tonk, C&W ballads, poppy modern country and even soulful torch songs. His influences range from Merle Haggard to Tom Jones - stage favorites that Gainey has obviously learned a lot from.
The opening track, “Two-Timin’ Two Steppin” boasts a tight arrangement and the kind of honky-tonkin’ that will bring the line dancer out of even the most casual country fan. The Doc Pomus chestnut “I Need Somebody” fuses R&B elements with country touches, notably the interplay between saxophone and guitar. The tune concludes with a satisfying jazzy buildup that bolsters the T. Jones traces in Gainey’s limber vocal.
The gentle barn dance lilt of Gainey’s own “No Hills in Tennessee” sets a sweet domestic scene. Light breezes of mandolin and piano bring a fitting nostalgic air to this song, which is full of metaphors of undying love and sung with conviction. A pleasant ride.
Gainey’s reputation for wowing crowds in the region is showcased in the Travis Tritt rave up “Blue Collar Man.” Listening to this one, I can practically taste the longneck beer and squint to see the jukebox through a smoky haze, much like in the winking “Countrier Than This,” which features a slick pedal steel solo and confident singing - a real rooster of a song.
Another highlight of the record (expertly recorded by Chet Chambers at Sweetwater Productions) is another Gainey-penned tune, the rustic and mournful rumination “Nothing But Time.” “Storm clouds are rollin’ through my skies,” laments Gainey with an ache in his voice. The song’s concise and classic chorus (“Since you’ve gone, I’ve got nothing but time”) brings to mind what the best country tunes do: appeal emotionally to anybody who hears them. Losing a lover or a loved one, whether it’s the end of a relationship or the end of a life, causes pain that’s universally felt. Gainey’s heartfelt delivery effectively transmits it here.
The Way I Like It! is fine promotion for the hardworking performer, who is beginning to tour regionally. Here’s hoping his next bushel of songs contains even more Gainey originals. For more information, go to www.jeffgainey.com or e-mail jeff firstname.lastname@example.org.
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July 21 • Sweetwater Performace Pavilion