Dirt roads, honky tonks and all-American country girls each get their due on Justin Moore’s third studio album, Off The Beaten Path. However, that’s not the whole story of the new project as the Arkansas native moves into decidedly unchartered territory. Working again with writer/producer Jeremy Stover (Jack Ingram, JJ Lawhorn), Justin makes sure to dish out the rowdy throwback country he’s known for as well as show a willingness to experiment with new sounds on the album that was released September 17.
Banging open to climbing electric guitars on “Old Back In The New School,” Off The Beaten Path immediately sets itself apart from predecessors Outlaws Like Me (2011) and Justin’s self-titled debut (2009). The riffs are heavy and strong, but that’s not what makes the song exceptional; it’s the surprisingly easy transition from hard rock to old-time and faithful traditional country in the song’s pedal steel-filled chorus. Off The Beaten Path is a more dynamic record because songs like the core valued “Old Back In The New School,” futuristic Honky Tonk “Point At You” and funky hip hop-influenced title track manage a more progressive sound while maintaining Justin’s good-ol’-boy appeal.
Justin appears to fully understand what has worked for him in the past and makes sure to deliver it on Off The Beaten Path. The melodic “Lettin’ The Night Roll” sings passionately about Chevy trucks, water towers and back roads while sharing an evening with the girlfriend. “This Kind Of Town” sets it in drive headed straight for Justin’s first No. 1 hit “Small Town USA” and “I’d Want It To Be Yours” features the tongue-in-cheek humor heard in songs like 2009’s “Back That Thing Up.” However, Justin does a nice job introducing an older, and dare we say wiser, sentiment on the record as well.
“That’s How I Know You Love Me” is one of the finer songs found on any of Justin’s releases. And it’s actually the kind of modern romantic ballad you’d imagine the young lovers in “Lettin’ The Night Roll” listening to as they stare up at a star-filled sky. Simultaneously thoughtful and spontaneous, Justin delivers an emotional vocal with vulnerable lines like, You found a way to trust me / despite the broken pieces of me. Justin also shows a knack for building tension through the give-and-take of the potent traditional country duet “Old Habits” featuring Miranda Lambert. Justin had never recorded a duet before Off The Beaten Path, and he does two here; the second of which is the Patriotic “For Some Ol Redneck Reason” with guest Charlie Daniels.
Justin co-wrote four of the album’s 11 songs including the boats and beer tune “Country Radio” and the back road prayer “One Dirt Road.” Balancing rowdy barroom rhythms with well-developed ballads and a willingness for risk, Justin takes a significant step Off The Beaten Path with his best album yet.
Key Tracks – “Old Back In The New School,” “That’s How I Know You Love Me,” “Off The Beaten Path,” “Old Habits”