Dallas Smith still rocks, but it’s country rock now

Dallas Smith
Jumped Right In, Universal

3.5 / 5.0

by Henry Lees

Don’t tell Dallas Smith that country can’t rock. The former Default front man and his producer, Joey Moi (Nickelback, Jake Owen), have taken all the brash energy of arena bombast and fashioned it into a cohesive country package. Jumped Right In rips out of the speakers from the first chord and doesn’t let up for it’s full, ten-song complement. This is windows down, pedal to the floor, fist-in-the-air stuff all the way.

Smith attacks every song on the project with an aggressive enthusiasm that underlines the album’s title. He’s jumped right in to the country corral with both feet and a collection of radio-ready, hook-laden tunes that have landed at an opportune time to provide the soundtrack to more than a few summer parties. Theyll slide into the mix quite comfortably next to the latest from Keith Urban, Jason Aldean or Rascal Flatts. Although there are some sonic similarities to the aforementioned, Jumped Right In has it’s own distinct elements. The most notable is Smith himself. His punchy, powerful vocals cut through to create a signature, and that slight drawl must have been hiding just under the surface throughout his rock days waiting for a time like this to push forward.

Smith and Moi gathered material from a very impressive list of Nashville writers who have penned smash hits for a compendium of country superstars. Smith has co-written a couple of the songs here as well, but it’s apparent that he wanted to dive into the Music City talent pool and draw out some of the best tunes he could find. Rodney Clawson, who’s written hits for George Strait and Jason Aldean, is one of the names found most often in the writing credits, including the first two singles ‘Somebody Somewhere’ and ‘If It Gets You Where You Wanna Go’. Both songs are up tempo, guitar chuggers that are primed for – and received – a friendly radio embrace. The rest of the writers on the album are also among the top tier. They include Craig Wiseman (Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney), Jim Collins (Kenny Chesney, George Strait) Zac Maloy and Chris Tompkins (Carrie Underwood), and Brett James (Carrie Underwood and Kenny Chesney). Other stand out tracks include Clawson/Wiseman’s riff-packed ‘Shotgun’ and Clawson/Collins’ ‘Stone Cold Killers’ that boasts the classic chorus, “Stone cold killers, untrue lovers and fallen angels are walking around in heaven tonight. And if God could find the mercy to forgive them, why can’t you give me one more chance to make things right.” The Joey Moi/Nickelback connection shows up in the form of Nickelback‘s Chad Kroeger contributing a co-write on the album’s closer, ‘The Song That’s In My Head,’ another high energy belter.

While Smith says he wanted to “bring stuff that is upbeat, rock-influenced and fun to play live,” it wouldn’t have hurt the project to have at least one tender, acoustic ballad in the mix. The ballads that are included, ‘Jumped Right In’ and ‘Never Saw Goodbye,’ both have choruses that kick in pretty hard. It would’ve been interesting to hear Smith’s approach on something lower key, contemplative and maybe a little more rootsy.

However, Jumped Right In seems made to get fans on their feet and the songs should accomplish that quickly when Smith hits stages at big summer events like Dauphin’s Countryfest in Manitoba and the Cavendish Beach Music Festival in PEI. The party-ready crowds there and elsewhere will undoubtedly give Smith a warm welcome now that he’s solidly made the jump from rock to country.