Scotty McCreery walked a neo-traditional line on his 2011 debut, Clear As Day, with a sterling sound recalling the Alan Jacksons and Clint Blacks of the country music world. Now the former American Idol champion returns October 15 with his follow-up, See You Tonight, an electric 13-song set blending those influences with the idea that things can heat up when the sun goes down.
Working with producer Frank Rogers (Darius Rucker, Trace Adkins), Scotty taps into the life and times of a college student on his new record; a life that he is actually living himself at North Carolina State University. And just like they do for underclassman everywhere, girls and parties get a lot of attention. The relaxed and rhythmic “Blue Jean Baby” appreciates her good denim while the raucous party-tune “Now” yells out for a good time. Let’s crank it up loud, Scotty sings on the anthem. Fiddle and mandolin still run through the mix, but song structures and arrangements have a more contemporary feel this time around. “I Don’t Want To Be Your Friend” plays with a funky bass line and up/down rhythm section and the summer song “Feelin’ It” uses a sequenced intro and big whoa-oh-whoa-ohs in the chorus.
Though he always had the chops, there’s plenty of evidence on See You Tonight that Scotty is developing into one of the genre’s finest singers. Performances are consistently dynamic as he shows off some serious vocal agility. His anticipation and timing on the title track match the song’s urgency while the banjo-fire “Can You Feel It” displays a sense of tempo and rhythm that belies his age. Scotty can turn individual syllables in and out, as he does on the melodic “Get Gone With You,” showing off exceptionally tight control to the great emotional benefit of the song.
Though the party continues on songs like “Buzzin’,” See You Tonight saves time for deep moments of reflection as well. As he sings on the acoustic guitar/mandolin closer “Something More,” By now I think I’ve heard every line there is to hear about a truck, in an effort to hear something more substantial. On this project, those moments come most prominently on “The Dash” and “Carolina Moon.” It ain’t about the numbers chiseled in concrete/it’s how they lived their lives in the dash between, he reassures on the former over moody piano and fleeting electric guitars. Alison Krauss joins on the Appalachian-tinged “Carolina Moon” to offer sparkling harmonies as Scotty sings lovingly of his home state while Southern stars are dancing around the North Carolina moon. And in a rather subtle move, “Feel Good Summer Song” is anything but as fluttering bass fuels a dramatic arrangement. Scotty’s voice becomes more and more pained through the four-minute song that is full of poignant aches and stunning bends.
While See You Tonight features a more progressive sound than Scotty’s first release, it also displays an older and wiser perspective. Life might be full of parties and co-eds in college, but Scotty also shows that a growing maturity can come with the territory as well. And on See You Tonight, Scotty balances both with an authentic and honest feel.
Key Tracks – “Get Gone With You, “Feel Good Summer Song,” “Buzzin’,” “Carolina Moon”