“I set out to make a different-sounding record,” Grammy-winner Keith Urban says in a recent press release regarding his new solo project…and did he ever. Working with eight different producers spanning the musical spectrum from Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Little Big Town) to Butch Walker (rock band Fall Out Boy) and Stargate (Beyonce, Katy Perry), Keith pushes his musical boundaries further than ever on his just-released album Fuse.
Fuse can most accurately be described as musical fusion. It’s been three busy years since his last album, Get Closer, hit stores and Keith’s varied pursuits are evident on the new 13-song set. Recent collaborations with the likes of The Rolling Stones, John Mayer and Alicia Keys seem to have broadened Keith’s musical palate while his current stint as a judge on American Idol appears to have exposed the Grand Ole Opry member to a steady dose of mainstream pop. The lead single “Little Bit Of Everything,” which went Top 10 at country radio, revolves around circular banjo riffs and drum loops before a laid-back chorus rolls by with an exceptionally smooth flow. And this is the recipe that allows Keith to hold all the moving parts on Fuse together.
The joyriding “Red Camaro” and charging “Somewhere In My Car” blend accentuated and creative banjo licks with electro-pop beats. On the story song “Cop Car,” where attraction explodes when living a little dangerously, stargazing moments come with soft keyboards and dobro runs. You were so innocent but you were stealing my heart, the song breaks in a wall of sound. Much of Fuse grows from tasty riffs built on traditional country instruments like banjo and dobro – just set to, shall we say, more progressive arrangements. The distorted country fried licks of “Good Thing” sound like ZZ Top at a roadhouse rave while the cosmic roll of “Love’s Poster Child” hits hard with a country stomp and mischievous vocal delivery. Yet so central to Keith’s work is undeniably strong and catchy melodies. The finely orchestrated “Heart Like Mine,” introspective “Shame” and rolling “She’s My 11” all feature exceptionally engaging hooks that stick fast.
In addition to working with a number of hit producers, Miranda Lambert and Eric Church guest on the project as well. Miranda offers the first verse on “We Were Us” while Eric joins on the excellent “Raise ‘Em Up.” Windswept acoustics and steadily building instrumentation power the album’s most traditional-leaning song as Keith and Eric trace life’s path through to having children.
Keith’s guitar work ranges from reflective to fiery. The if-you-love-her-set-her-free “Come Back To Me” features elegant 60s pop guitar bends and on the pep rally “Even The Stars Fall 4 U,” a paint splatter guitar solo fires off the line. Though he’s well known for his fluid and melodic solos, Keith makes a point to energize his fretwork with different tastes.
Keith co-wrote six of the album’s songs as well as another that appears on the deluxe version of the record that features three additional tunes. With its boundary-pushing mission firmly accomplished, this is an expansive project that will challenge listeners to keep up. However, Keith’s methodical risks and ability to punch in the big chorus light a Fuse on this exciting new album.
Key Tracks – “Love’s Poster Child,” “Raise ‘Em Up,” “Good Thing,” “Shame”