Gord Bamford’s fifth studio album opens with a strong guitar lick. Seconds later, a fiddle echoes the flirtatious melody with a wink. It’s a fun, sexy start for what’s sure to be a chart-topper. “Must Be A Woman” is the lead song, and I can’t get enough of it.
The first lines of the song are all you need to know about it: “My best friend, he’s been cleaning up his act/Mowed his front yard, even mowed the back/I can think of just one reason for all that/Must be a woman!” This is the kind of song that has made Gord Bamford’s name. Between his signature vocals and that addictive fiddle, it sets the bar high for the rest of the album.
GB has come a long way since I first saw him open for Terri Clark in 2005. Back then, despite great songs like “24 x 24” and “Classic Country Song”, he was struggling to find an audience.
“It’s not easy; this is a long effort and a long time coming,” he told us recently. “I think it’s just a matter of persistence and believing in yourself.” But his hard work has finally paid off. The 2010 CCMA Male Vocalist Of The Year has a string of hits under his belt already, and can expect several more with this album.
The third song on the album, “Farm Girl Strong”, uses another, similar fiddle progression to great effect. The Lacombe, Alberta native celebrates coverall-wearing country girls with this anthem. If you’re the sort of guy who likes girls with ponytails and baseball caps, you’ll recognize the appeal Bamford is referring to. This one joins Dean Brody’s “Canadian Girls” as a recent rival to the classic Bellamy Brothers song “Redneck Girl” and Brooks & Dunn’s “Rock My World (Little Country Girl)”.
The album’s title track and lead single is another classic Gord Bamford blue collar drinking song in the vein of “Stayed Til Two”. My local station has cruelly been playing “Is It Friday Yet” on the Monday morning drive to work, but it’s great to hear this ode to the end of the work week any time.
These three songs are the surefire radio hits, but they’re not all that Bamford has to offer on this album.
“Disappearing Tail Lights”, according to the singer himself, “really has a Merle Haggard feel to it.” I was reminded of Garth Brooks’ “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)”. Either way, there aren’t many songs like this on radio anymore. It’s a nice throwback, even if the title does hint at a tired concept, explored previously by both Trace Adkins and Clint Black.
“Leaning on a Lonesome Song” is a much softer song, with relatively modest instrumentals and a refreshingly subdued vocal performance. This is a different sound than we’re used to hearing from Bamford, and it’s a great interlude on the CD.
The album starts to pick back up with a “big band song with a country spin” in “You Make It Better”. This is a song best listened to on a staticky AM radio in an old farmhouse kitchen, while you two-step to the well-punctuated lyrics.
“I Call It Country” unfortunately reads like a list of clichéd redneck attributes, including Skoal-ringed jeans and dirty ball caps. Lyrically, it’s about as original as Tim McGraw’s much-criticized “Southern Voice”, but without McGraw’s polished vocals and a catchy melody to sell it. “Nothing Hurts As Bad As A Broken Heart”, meanwhile, seems like an honest effort to quietly relate the experience right after a breakup, but it feels incomplete and inadequate. Even Bamford’s regular writing partner, Byron Hill, who contributes on 12 of the 13 tracks, can’t help these two songs.
But after those misses, the Canadian is back with strong vocals and an upbeat, interesting melody with “She Makes Me Look Good”. Every man can relate with this one. He does the same thing for family men with “On My Best Days”, singing about how good days are spent working hard, fishing and playing golf, but his best days are spent hanging out at home, watching his kids play.
That pair evoke a bit of early GB, similar to “My Heart’s a Genius” and “I Would For You”, both musically, and in his admiring affection for his loved ones. “On My Best Days”, especially, is a real feel-good song. His feelings are plainly, sweetly obvious for his real-life wife and three kids.
The singer then tries to imagine life without his wife in “Now That You’re Gone”. The lyrics “You made it look so easy being Mom/It’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done” sum this one up.
“Sing Another Song About Love” hints at an Alan Jackson influence, while telling what sounds like an autobiographical story about the life of a touring singer.
Bamford closes the album out with what he describes as the sleeper hit of the album. It’s a melodic farewell to a deceased friend, “A Cowboy’s Last Ride” – a fitting conclusion, and a good song in its own right. You can hear more than a little George Strait during this number.
Comparisons like that are why Gord Bamford’s star continues to rise. Five albums in, he still may not have completely hit his stride, but he gets closer with each effort. The hit potential on “Is It Friday Yet?” is impressive. Look forward to hearing a lot more GB on the radio in the next few months as the singles are released – they’re addictively catchy.