South Carolina native Lee Brice has made a lasting impression on Nashville’s Music Row. A look at the Billboard charts over the past few years reveals that the 32-year-old singer/songwriter has quickly become one of the most recognizable names in country music. In 2010, it was his own single “Love Like Crazy” that nabbed the title of radio’s Most Played Country Song, and in 2011, it was his co-write of Eli Young Band’s “Crazy Girl” that received the same honor. Now, fresh off of winning the 2012 ACM Song of the Year award for “Crazy Girl” earlier this month, Lee is set to release his sophomore album for Curb Records.
Hard 2 Love, hitting stores April 24, is a 13-song collection that shows off why Lee has become one of the most in-demand artists in Music City. Mixing a touch for vivid lyrical imagery, a talent for crafting hook-filled melodies and a passionate vocal approach, Lee sets the bar high while displaying his continued growth as an artist.
“A Woman Like You,” the album’s ultra catchy first single, is a fine example of why Lee’s brand of country music has struck such a chord. There’s a certain brilliance in the way he effortlessly appeals to both male and female fans. Guided by a gentle acoustic melody, Lee warmly describes the virtues of bachelorhood, including the freedom to go fishing whenever and having all the time in the world to be a good football fan, while also conveying the message that, If I was a single man alone and out there on the loose / I’d be looking for a woman like you. On the piano-based ballad “See About A Girl,” Lee’s relatable everyman lyrics of telling old stories and stretching the truth while out at the bar with his buddies gives way to emphasizing the importance of his girlfriend and heading home when she calls. On this song, and throughout the record, Lee’s voice soulfully delivers the emotions of the song.
Though they have different tempos and overall feels, the bluesy “Don’t Believe Everything You Think” and the ringing “Life Off My Years” (co-written with Eric Church) both display Lee’s passionate vocals. While most are running from the wildfires / I can’t wait to get too close, he sings on the latter with a smoldering intensity. On title-track “Hard To Love,” an expansive bass line and textured acoustic guitars support the song’s introspective themes. I’m hard to love / No, I don’t make it easy, Lee sings before admitting, I couldn’t do it if I stood where you stood.
The successful delivery of each song’s true essence stands out on Hard 2 Love. The stellar, and somber, “I Drive Your Truck” features weighty subject matter while Lee’s voice shoulders the struggle of processing a brother’s death. On the other end of the emotional spectrum, “Beer” explodes during the chorus as it calls for another round after a laid back verse mirroring a week’s worth of waiting for the weekend.
Hard 2 Love is a compelling collection of songs and emotions that works well as a group. Anthems like “Parking Lot Party” and “Friends We Won’t Forget” are at home next to ballads like traditional-leaning story song “That Way Again” due to the strength of Lee’s voice pulling it all together with an authentic feel. Lee pours his heart and soul into each performance, and the result is an album that is not at all ‘hard to love.’
Key tracks – “A Woman Like You,” “I Drive Your Truck,” “See About A Girl,” “That Way Again”