In Pieces

Garth Brooks

Liberty Records, 1993

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


After the genre-expanding push of his previous three albums -- and the pushback he experienced in some quarters -- Garth Brooks' fifth regular studio album might have been expected to reflect a turn back towards his core country audience. And it does -- sort of. Ever anxious to please every single member of his audience, on In Pieces, Brooks manages to throw a bone or two to his more traditionalist fans while once again straddling the boundaries between country, rock, pop and a few other genres to boot.

As he's often done, Brooks kicks off the album with a show-stopper of a tune, "Standing Outside The Fire." Basically an arena rock number with a fiddle carrying the melody, it's an entertaining ride through a lyric that manages to be both dynamic and philosophical, thoughtful and impulsive. (My perceptions of this song will be forever colored by having caught Brooks live on this tour -- let's just say the stage show definitely lived up to the song title.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

One of the pleasures of listening to GB is the way he can surprise you sometimes with the emotional nuances of songs like the foreboding, steady-rocking "The Night I Called The Old Man Out." The title seems like it might say it all, but it only scratches the surface of this complex look at classic alpha male father-son behavior. "He would've let me walk away / But I just would not let it go / Years of my frustration / Had led me to this night / Now he'll pay for all the times that he's been right." It's Freud in a ten-gallon hat...

Of course, on his best albums, Brooks has also managed to pack some pure fun into the proceedings, and he surely achieves that with "Ain't Goin' Down Til The Sun Comes Up." The storyline might be predictable party-it-up country-song fare, but it's thoroughly energized by a tight, furiously fast arrangement and Brooks' double-time delivery, whose momentum and flow suggest a new genre -- country hip-hop. (Or not.)

The requisite ballads show up in "One Night A Day" and "The Red Strokes," but the former is jazzy and the latter pure power-ballad rock. The emphasis on this disc, though, is instead on harder fare like the somewhat edgy "The Night Will Only Know," whose chorus guitars have a power-chord rock feel, and "Callin Baton Rouge," whose guitars-plus-big-fiddle arrangement echoes back to "Standing Outside The Fire." Brooks completes the experimentation with the rather slinky country-blues shouter "Kickin' And Screamin'."

Like a politician campaigning for votes, though, Brooks also throws in a pair of tunes that are rather obviously meant to shore up his country credentials. "American Honky-Tonk Bar Association" is a spot-on country confection and clever enough, even if it takes a cheap shot or two while pandering to the conservative demographic he risked alienating with "We Shall Be Free." As for acoustic closer "The Cowboy Song," it's a beauty, even if it seems a little ham-handed at times.

Brooks has always wanted to have it all -- to be your best pal and the daring outsider, to simultaneously rebel against and embrace his core country audience. In Pieces is an apt title for an album this splintered by Brooks' seemingly contradictory desires, but when it works, it works very well.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2006 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Liberty Records, and is used for informational purposes only.