In listening to Easton Corbin's new single, you could easily be forgiven for wondering if you had been time-warped back into the nineties, and I mean that as a compliment. Such an understative acoustic arrangement with flourishes of steel would not sound out of place on a vintage nineties album by Alan Jackson, Mark Chesnutt, or (Yes, I'm using this oft-made comparison once again) George Strait.
"I Can't Love You Back" opens with a few soft acoustic guitar chords that set the mood for a plaintive and low-key vocal from Easton. The lyric is a tender but straightforward expression of sorrow and heartbreak. This man dearly loves his departed significant other, but all the love in the world will never bring her back to him. And while Easton's radio peers may be chortling their romantic giddiness, or reveling in sippy-cup domestic bliss, Easton sounds downhearted and depressed. There is no hint of a possible happy ending.
But while the lyrics are solid as steel, there is a minor dent in this studio recording. Easton's delivery of the chorus is somewhat overwrought. He attempts to squeeze emotion into the song through a strained performance, with awkward-sounding results, though this problem is mainly confined to the chorus. Fortunately, the single's many strong suits make this flaw scarcely noticeable.
Thus far, Easton seems to have already gained entry into the exclusive club of commercially-successful neotraditional country artists. He went so far as to have back-to-back number one hits with his first two singles, which was a big hurrah for traditional country. With "I Can't Love You Back," Easton successfully continues his trend of balancing quality and critical appeal with commercial viability. He can't love his woman back, but country radio just might love him all the way back to the top of the charts.
EASTON'S SCORE: 7
(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)
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