It has been 13 years since Garth Brooks released his last “official” studio album was released. Country music – and the world as a whole was in a different place back then in 2001. Tim McGraw was just a singer, and not the subject of Taylor Swift’s first breakout hit. Speaking of Miss Swift, she was only 12 when the last Brooks album was released. Kenny Chesney hadn’t hit the beach yet for his huge “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems” single. Brooks & Dunn was controlling the airwaves as country’s biggest duo. Country music as a whole was in a different place.
With Man Against Machine, however, Brooks slides back in without missing a step. While he hasn’t taken too many risks with the new album, he really doesn’t need to. He could’ve released something similar to a Jason Aldean or Luke Bryan album, but he would’ve been labeled a copycat. While the projected sales are down from what was expected, at this point, Garth doesn’t need to impress anyone. He has a loyal following that will buy his album over time. Trends are different too. While most artists’ sales are huge digitally, Garth hasn’t fully adapted to that method – feeling that artists and writers aren’t getting their due pay. He instead released GhostTunes, an alternative to iTunes.
The album as a whole rests in the mid-tempo range. The title track is a fun, rock and roll song that is full on Garth. “Rodeo & Juliet” feels a lot like a song he would have released in the mid-90s, not in a bad way, but definitely rests on the nostalgia factor. The first single of the album, “People Loving People” is probably the strongest on the track. It is the one song that feels slightly different and current. There are highlights in every song, and it is a breathe of fresh air to hear a more “traditional” country artist again. What’s funny about that last statement is Garth was always considered the “new thing” when he first came out, being more pop and rock driven than country artists at that time. Now, he’s much more traditional.
One thing is certain, Man Against Machine isn’t the most radio friendly of albums. So for fans who buy albums solely off radio hits, they might have a hard time finding Garth’s new album. It’ll be interesting to see how Garth’s world tour affects CD sales as well as the under 25 crowd that won’t be able to find it on iTunes.
While not the most ambitious album out this year, Man Against Machine is sure to please Garth’s large fan base. Have you heard the album? Sound off!