Once the emperor of knowingly tasteless redneck rap-rock, Robert James Ritchie has seen sales slide dramatically since his commercial peak around the millennium. More recently, the Detroit-born badass cleaned up his act and embraced a heartland country-rock sound with a Southern twang, notably on his 2010 album Born Free.
Even more anodyne in style, First Kiss contains soft-rock strummers about loving Jesus and Hank Williams, listening to Tom Petty and drinking beers on the back porch with your dad.
Playing to the flag-waving, gun-owning, Republican-voting gallery is no crime, of course, if only Rock sounded like he was speaking from the heart, rather than cynically adopting a folksy good-ole-boy persona to court a target audience. The corny love ballad Johnny Cash is yet another of his thinly disguised rewrites of Sweet Home Alabama, while decaffeinated country-blues party-rockers like Good Times Lookin’ For Me could be Bryan Adams B-sides.
Admittedly, a pleasing hangover from Rock’s more retro soulful work cuts through the lyrical clichés of Best Of Me, while bonus track Fuck Off And Die offers a rare hint of spite amid the laid-back mellowness. But seriously, does anybody really need a tasteful Kid Rock album?/o:p