Diving deeper into the R&B tones that subtly shaped some of Billy Currington’s recent hits like “Let Me Down Easy” and even “Pretty Good At Drinkin’ Beer,” the Georgia-born singer shows off some serious country soul on his newest album. We Are Tonight capitalizes on Billy’s easygoing every-dude nature while also making sure to explore new themes and feelings.
While Billy’s two previous albums, 2008’s Little Bit Of Everything and 2010’s Enjoy Yourself, were both being certified Gold, the Grammy-nominated vocalist was steadily building a reputation as a guy who sings a lot about beer. Whether consciously or subconsciously, We Are Tonight takes significant steps away from that perception with 10 songs focused more on personal relationships. The lead single, “Hey Girl,” which is currently Top 10 at country radio, might take place down at the bar but the hook-filled track is really about the nervousness that goes along with approaching a cute girl. Even the laid-back, guys-night-out comedy “Wingman” doesn’t have much to do with drinking. With a horn section to support some of Billy’s best James Brown soul vocals, the funky tune playfully laments a friend taking the wrong girl at the club.
We Are Tonight is marked by several soulful vocal performances that can either be bluesy or full of life. Minor keys and a melancholy delivery accentuate the piano groove of “Another Day Without You.” Billy changes direction in the chorus with a dynamic shift that adds depth, while on the lighthearted Jack Johnson cover “Banana Pancakes,” he follows a yo-yo guitar melody as the timbres of his voice reveal soft pleading. Billy’s voice is remarkably expressive on We Are Tonight as his R&B touch causes even a shout out to Smokey Robinson on the island-inspired “Hallelujah” to make perfect sense. Billy’s long been associated with happy-go-lucky beach tunes and “One Way Ticket” is an extremely likable tale, rich with life and a strong dose of Jimmy Buffet.
There’s a windswept feel to We Are Tonight as Billy keys in on just enjoying life’s ride. Though Billy gets some help from Willie Nelson to explain that it may not be as free and easy as it once was (the troubadour country cut “Hard To Be A Hippie”), the gentle “23 Degrees and South” spins the globe and points a finger. Don’t need a map to get us where we’re going/Sail wherever the breeze is blowing/Rediscover what our love is all about, Billy sings on the track that is the album’s heart and soul. Tender and introspective, “23 Degrees and South” is a soothing love song about the emotions of being with the one you care for most.
Though pedal steel sings throughout and story songs cement the album’s country core, We Are Tonight does take Billy in new directions. While the slicing title track builds up big on Friday nights and small town fun, songs like “Closer Tonight” reveal influences like Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie. We Are Tonight showcases many welcome new steps as Billy delivers an expressive set with a whole lotta soul.
Key Tracks – “23 Degrees and South,” “Hard To Be A Hippie,” “Another Day Without You,” “Hey Girl”