Published Mar 03, 2020"I don't wanna hear it, it's all been done before / Feel like a broken record playing all the same rock'n'roll" goes Sadler Vaden's earnestly bellowed critique against subpar modern music, without a shred of self-awareness, on "Tried and True." The closing track of Vaden's new album, Anybody Out There?, finds the Charlotte, NC-born guitarist and songwriter throwing his entire heart into platitude-laden lyrics over schmaltzy power chords and sterile, overly produced percussion.
Sadly, none of the other nine tracks on this LP fare any better. That'll be a profound disappointment for fans of Vaden's far superior work in alt-country star Jason Isbell's band the 400 Unit. Indeed, Isbell's deeply authentic and distinctive outlaw songwriting style didn't rub off on Vaden, who instead sounds more like Bon Jovi going country, circa 2005.
To be fair, Vaden brings plenty of passion to his vocals and fretwork. He and his backing band, meanwhile, sound nothing short of professional and musically capable on the rocking title track and equally guitar-solo-studded "Golden Child." And it seems like he deliberately turned to hair metal and adult contemporary radio for inspiration. But that was a misguided goal, one that all his technical ability can't overcome, if these blandly vapid songs are any indication.
But who knows? The same casual audiences who like the Nashville assembly line of rock indebted, toothless mainstream country just might make Vaden's latest a smash hit, something he seems to be gunning for. It's just a shame that more discerning listeners like myself — us snobs who expected far more creative and boundary pushing solo work from the clearly talented axeman behind a singular talent like Isbell — will be so thoroughly put off by Anybody Out There? (Dirty Mag / Thirty Tigers)