By Shannon Collins

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3B0zxdkvEU

With their last release five years behind them, the famous country duo Big & Rich are back with a vengeance. On Sept. 18 they released their latest album, Hillbilly Jedi, which is  marriage of old school country and rock.

The first song on the album, “Born Again,” features Bon Jovi, which says a lot right there. Big & Rich have always been good at making country music that leans on the rock side, but this is much more of a rock song than what they usually play. It’s a good introduction to the album, and it’s a song you can groove to. It starts off with the signature harmony of Big & Rich’s voices. The bridge is driving and is one of the strongest parts of the song. There’s lots of electric guitar and intricate fiddle riffs.

Party Like Cowboyz (Galactic Version)” continues the country rock feel of this album. It has rock beats all throughout with plenty of electric guitar, and the fiddle is a little bit grittier with a sort of hiss on the strings during the chorus. It’s definitely a pump up song.

The transition from “Party Like Cowboyz (Galactic Version)” to “That’s Why I Pray” is a little sloppy, however. It’s a complete 180 from the first two songs, and I think it probably throws the listener a little off-kilter. While the first two songs have fun and meaningful lyrics, the change to this heartfelt song is quite abrupt. It’s very strong lyrically, and is what you’d expect from this country pair. The song was also played on the radio during the summer and has definitely gained popularity.

“Lay It All On Me” is an old western-sounding country song. It’s got a strong lead harmonica, reminding one of tumbleweed and pistols. It’s very heartfelt and incredibly lyrical. The chorus is repetitive, but it adds a somber tone to the song. “Lay It All On Me” is a slow song that really resonates – the kind of song that’s perfect for a troubled heart or a rainy day.

Last Words” is in the same vein as the previous two songs. It’s heavy on the minor chords and is really about communicating the lyrics. It’s got a lot of great harmonization.

The next few songs on the album are a complete change, too. They are all songs  you’ll have blasting in your car. “Rock the Boat,” “Can’t Be Satisfied,” and “Get Your Game On (Unleash the Beast Version)” are songs you want to sing along to. “Rock the Boat” and “Get Your Game On (Unleash the Beast Version)” are much more rock with some rap thrown in. They both feature Cowboy Troy and are tons of fun. “Can’t Be Satisfied” is good for cruising around in the car while the sun’s going down.

“Cause I Play Guitar” is cheeky, which is exactly what everyone loves about Big & Rich. It’s got a country twang that you dance to, some great electric guitar solos, and some great keys in the background. It’s bound to be one of the most popular songs on the album.

“Cheat On You” and “Never Far Away” slow things down once again, with the former having some really great drumming and a prominent steel guitar. It’s got a driving beat and has the ability to really hit listeners with its lyrics. “Never Far Away” is a sweet and soulful song. With soft guitars, it’s smooth and touching.

M-e-d-l-e-y of the Hillbilly Jedi,” the closing song, is weird and different. It’s a conglomeration of random sounds, reminiscent of a bit that would be played in a concert at the end of a show.

All in all, I give this album four out of five stars.

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