By Jeff Taulton
Vince Gill has released a new album which is big news in itself. However, OKIE is not your typical country honky tonk, drinking album. It doesn’t “fit” into the commercial, stereotypical realm of Traditional or Contemporary Country music. As a matter of fact, you probably won’t hear any of the dozen tracks on Country Radio. That’s a real shame as this album will likely go down in Gill’s revered musical history as one of his finest efforts! OKIE is certainly a thinking album. A brilliant, cerebral presentation from a master musician who has now etched his way into the genius category of songwriters. Nine of the twelve songs on this album were solely penned by Gill and the remaining three he co-wrote. There’s no filler on OKIE. Each number can easily stand on its own merits.
Gill touts an abundance of sentimental and personal references throughout this project. He sings about mama, The Beatles, Merle Haggard, Guy Clark and Jesus, while effortlessly making them all fit into the same room and musical space. OKIE is actually more in the classification of Americana with an eclectic twist into the Contemporary Christian or even New Acoustic genre. Even though some of the instruments used on this record include banjo, mandolin, dobro and acoustic bass, this is not a bluegrass compilation.
There are plenty of appealing highlights to mention about OKIE. The most salient being Gill’s voice. The man can really sing and this collection of material shows why Vince Gill is one of the finest vocalists of our time. “When My Amy Sings” is over the edge good in a variety of ways! While the instrumentation is rather basic (piano, acoustic bass and drums), the union of poignant lyrics, a beautiful melody and Gill’s distinctive tenor makes this cut a feature selection. This piece is destined to be part of Christian music for years to come.
Another emotionally charged composition is “Forever Changed”. Any unfortunate victim of child abuse will be moved to tears and/or anger when listening to this one. “Forever Changed” could potentially be monumental or even revolutionary in so many ways. A sad, but truly powerful three and a half minutes.
True Country Music fans will find “A World Without Haggard” especially appealing. Gill’s tribute to “Hag” is sincere and moving. Paul Franklin’s hauntingly tasteful steel guitar lead is fifty seconds of real Country Music bliss. Yes, “fifty seconds”! While Country Radio should embrace such a feat, don’t anticipate hearing this one over the airwaves anytime soon. That’s too bad.
Vince Gill has a way of attracting and assimilating the best musicians for his studio and road projects. OKIE is no exception as legendary names like John Jarvis, Michael Rhodes and Franklin are eloquently painted all over this album.
OKIE is light on up-tempo jaunts and heavy on thought provoking, socially charged topics. While Gill freely and rhetorically tosses things out to the listener, he’s very careful not to side with polarizing issues unlike many of today’s artists. Good for him! Vince Gill gets it, and you should go get this fantastic album today.