Brantley Gilbert isn't terribly concerned about fitting the typical Nashville molds. As a country songwriter and vocalist, he's developed his own gritty, Southern-steeped style. On his new studio album Halfway to Heaven, Gilbert handles the role of the polished country heartthrob act alongside that of a roughneck rocker. He's capable of delivering radio-friendly material, but he's clever enough to balance it with a heavy dose of hard-rock and red-blooded redneck 'tude.
A native of the northeast Georgia town of Jefferson, Gilbert utilizes his rural roots in many of his songs. His singing style reflects a healthy blend of Peach State influences. There's a bit of Greg Allman's soulful croon here and a twist of Travis Tritt there (especially on romantic ballads like "My Kind of Crazy" and "Fall into Me"), and even a hint of Michael Stipe's raspy croak.
Halfway to Heaven leans toward a heavy-handed modern-rock feel. His new single, "Kick It in the Sticks," is an anthem in which he gives a shout-out to "AC/DC, Hank, Skynyrd, and George Strait." It resembles the macho rumble of vintage grunge or contemporary nü-metal more than anything on the country radio.
"Kick It in the Sticks" is an authentic redneck anthem that touches all the clichés, from sipping moonshine in mason jars by a bonfire on the tailgate of the mud-covered pickup to snipe huntin' and giggin'. The opening verse goes, "Welcome to the home of a hillbilly/It's a land of barbed wire, moonshine, whiskey." You get the idea.
The official video clip for "Kick It in the Sticks" looks like something Kid Rock might have directed. It's a rowdy kegger in the woods, with Gilbert rockin' out on his black six-string, and stompin' on a junked Chevrolet while leather-clad buddies on Harleys and ATVs wiz by. His drummer sports a peroxide fauxhawk. Hotties holding cups of beer mingle with bikers. It's quite a scene.
Halfway to Heaven quickly reached number one on Billboard's Heatseeker chart this spring. While his fanbase continues to expand, this week's gig might be the best opportunity to catch him before he accelerates to the next level.