It would be easy to dismiss Frankie Ballard as just another young country guy who happened to hit it big with one phenomenal track, the recent #1 single “Helluva Life.” Although that may be the easy thing to do, that doesn’t mean it would be correct. Upon listening to Ballard’s debut album with Warner Music Nashville, Sunshine & Whiskey, it’s clear that he’s an artist bound for way more than one hit wonderdom.
While the Battle Creek, Michigan native does rely on the typical country topics of women, drinking and the so-called country life, his approach is different that the norm. There’s the poignant “Don’t Tell Mama I Was Drinking,” the romantic “Don’t You Wanna Fall” and the cute love story within the lyrics of “Tip Jar.” Inasmuch as Ballard is a talented singer, he’s also a phenomenal lyricist and storyteller, his raspy rock-country voice portraying each emotion with conviction and believability.
The album’s opening track, which should absolutely be a summer single, “Young and Crazy” sets the perfect tone for the album, with Ballard posing an important life question. “How am I ever gonna get to be old and wise if I’m never young and crazy?” It’s a one-two punch at the front of the album, with cut two being the album’s title track, “Sunshine and Whiskey,” an ode to a kiss that’s just like sunshine and whiskey. Of this track, Ballard tells Spotify that it “speaks to the two things that have ever gotten me in trouble in life…women and whiskey.”
The album continues to rock through “It Don’t Take Much,” a track about how all decisions and life moments affect the ultimate journey of your life, followed by the irresistibly infectious first single “Helluva Life.” Speaking of catchy, there’s “Country Thing,” an ode to escaping your concrete jungle and heading for the country. It’s a celebration of all things “country” that could’ve easily veered off into cheesy cliche, but here, Ballard’s believability makes it work.
While Ballard shows off his rocking side on the front half of the album, the second half is an impressive foray into lyrics and storytelling. It slows down a bit, but is captivating in it’s own right. “Dont Ya Wanna Fall” is one of my immediate favorites, a song in which Ballard invites a woman who’s out of his league to “Fall down here than where angels should know better than to walk around this world with me.” However, it’s the album’s closer, “Don’t Tell Mama I Was Drinking,” which is truly a country masterpiece, telling the story of an alcohol-induced car wreck in which the driver’s last words are a plea to the singer. “Don’t tell Mama I was drinking ’cause Lord knows her soul would never rest,” He begs. “I can’t leave this world with Mama thinking that I met the Lord with whiskey on my breath.”
If you’re looking for a soundtrack for your summer, Frankie Ballard’s Sunshine & Whiskey may just be the album for you. There’s something for everyone and every moment, from rollicking party tracks to sweeter serenades. Ballard’s first single sums up the album as it’s truly one “helluva ride.”
Country Music Chat did a #CMchat Twitterview with Frankie earlier this year. See it here on CMChatLIVE.com.