When people talk about how Nashville has "lost its roots," and that country ain't country anymore, Emerson Drive is one band that immediately comes to mind. Of course, they aren't originally from Nashville, which might have something to do with it, but regardless of the group's "authenticity" or whatever, their mix of boy-band pop and neutered Nashville twang, Emerson Drive emerged as one of the most popular bands of the '00s, both in terms of albums and concert sales... Their career has hit a few stumbling blocks due to corporate politics -- they seem to have a knack for signing with labels to fold up unexpectedly, but in every case, they've been a "rainmaker" band, selling tons of albums and scoring big hits that ensure that they land on their feet no matter what happens in Music City. Personally, I don't get it, but whatever... Nobody asks me anyway. Here's a quick look at their work...
Emerson Drive "Decade Of Drive" (Universal, 2011)
12 Gauge "Open Season" (1996)
Before moving to Nashville in 1999, the band recorded a couple of albums in Canada under their original name, 12 Gauge. Good luck finding these self-released rarities!
12 Gauge "Until You Walk the Tracks" (1997)
Emerson Drive "Emerson Drive" (Dreamworks, 2002)
(Produced by Julian King & James Stroud)
Witness the birth of Emerson Drive, a N'Sync-style country music boy band, whose look is almost as preposterous as their sound, and yet, it was just the right mix to hit it big. ED's thematic range runs from apple-cheeked, boyish enthusiasm to cheesy, overblown romantic sappiness -- nothing rugged or off-color, or overly macho, and the music is equally neutered and unexciting. Productionwise, they thrown in everything they can think of, and see what sticks -- musically, they opt for a group harmony sound, but they do it rather poorly... Their high notes are excruciatingly irritating, a liability that is underscored by the weakness and unoriginality of their lyrics. Basically, one big blehh. I can sort of see, given the hopeless bad taste of a certain section of the modern-day country-buying public, how these guys could be legitimately popular, but mostly I think it has more to do with big-budget marketing than anything else. These guys are a blight upon the face of country (and popular) music. But then again, nobody asks me.
Emerson Drive "What If?" (Dreamworks, 2004)
There's an old joke in rock music that on their third record, every band winds up doing a concept album... I'm not sure if that's what Emerson Drive are attempting on this disc (which is actually only their second), but they might as well be, with all the puffed-up, pretentiousness that's on display. Huge, bombastically popped-up tunes with oceanic orchestrations cloak remarkably vacuous lyrics, songs that are made all the more ridiculous by the occasional attempts to sound macho (as on "Running Back To You") while evoking the memory of old Bryan Adams power ballads. Is this really "country"? Oh, wait, I do hear a few fiddles here and there -- and there is one tune, "Fishin' In The Dark," that starts with the stompy rhythm from that old Queen song, where they get kinda Southern rock-y and actually got me to nod my head in time with the beat... But otherwise... jeez... this ain't my kinda country. I guess I can see the appeal, but I'll pass on this one.
Emerson Drive "Countrified" (Midas, 2007)
Emerson Drive "Believe" (Big Machine, 2009)
(Produced by Josh Leo & Teddy Gentry)
Emerson Drive "Roll" (Open Road, 2012)
Hick Music Index