George Strait can’t keep cranking out hits forever, right? Still, even if he doesn’t retire or get relegated to the status of a superannuated “heritage artist” anytime soon, it’s good to have next-generation neo-traditionalists like the molasses-voiced Easton Corbin around to put their stamp on honky-tonk’s timeless shuffle beat. “All Over the Road,” the Florida native’s follow-up to his self-titled debut album, proves that he’s more than up to the challenge, revealing Corbin to be a ripened stylist with a laid-back delivery and a keen ear for a clever hook and lyric.
In the title track, a PG-13 entry in pop music’s long line of songs about sex and cars, Corbin plays a smitten young Romeo who gets pulled over by the police for not staying in his lane. The reason, he explains to the officer, is that his girl wouldn’t take her hand off his knee. Buoyed by swooning pedal steel guitar, it’s a one-joke conceit but a winning one. So is “That’s Gonna Leave a Memory,” a self-deprecating monument to heartache. Each of these tracks features electric guitar barbs on the break — muscular, barely hinged playing that lends Nashville’s neo-trad conservatism a disheveled edge.
Propelled by headlong rhythms, “Lovin’ You Is Fun,” meanwhile, nicely subverts the myth that country love songs have to be fraught with cheating and heartbreak to be authentic. A tendency to name-check stock rural signifiers mars a couple of the other tracks, but these are minor hiccups on a tradition-conscious yet forward-looking album that confidently sidesteps the sophomore jinx.
“All Over the Road,” “Lovin’ You Is Fun,” “That’s Gonna Leave a Memory”