Review – Eric Ethridge

Album: Forever With You
Release Date: April 24, 2020
Genre: Country

In certain ways, country music as it exists on commercial radio functions as essentially a superficial reflection of itself; an aesthetic or tone to be achieved, so to speak. A singer can put together a hit pop song, slap some banjo and lap steel to the background and widen their audience significantly by simply dipping a toe into a folksy feel. Such is the case on Eric Ethridge’s latest EP, Forever With You. The lyrics on this record are undeniably strong, but it lacks an identity. One of the things that country music has always benefitted from its ability to convey personality and give heart to the often emotional lyrics of the style. It’s not that Forever With You lacks heart by any means, it just isn’t clear who it belongs to.

The EP’s opener, “Dream Girl”, is a fairly solid song. Ethridge has a very good voice and that is evident throughout the whole record. But this song just doesn’t stick with you. The only indicator that points to this being a lead single off of a country album is the banjo melody that loops through the entire song and the general heartbreak lyrics. “Gasoline” is for sure a standout on the record, however. This track takes on a much more authentic-feeling acoustic country tone paired with some pretty solid lyrics. “Gasoline” hears Ethridge delving into the idea of knowing when to call it quits on a relationship instead of “trying to put out fires with gasoline.” The album’s title track succeeds where it’s opener falls short as “Forever With You” is a genuinely sweet love song lyrically speaking. Musically though, the track once again just barely touches on country with a hint of lap steel guitar hidden behind an inexplicable 808 drum machine beat. This isn’t to say by any means that an artist must strictly adhere to some pre-determined checklist in order to fit a genre, but the juxtaposition with produced pop motifs and the lack of commitment to any real country or folk roots just makes things feel inauthentic. The final two tracks on the album, “Break Your Heart” and “Miss Me”, are essentially just variations on each other. Both are fairly low-key songs about heartbreak, carried by Ethridge’s solid and consistent singing voice.

Overall, Forever With You is a fine album. It succeeds in its lyrics and vocal performance but lacks a distinct identity in its music. If music is the vehicle that drives the lyrics, this record feels a little bit like a cowboy driving a Prius.

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