To this point in his career, Justin Moore hasn’t developed an artistic identity: A consistent C-list presence, his output has been characterized primarily by Moore’s trend-hopping, nakedly chasing success at radio. Fortunately for Moore, the current climate at country radio has turned at least slightly in favor of the more traditional-leaning sounds of Jon Pardi and Midland, and that happens to play to Moore’s strengths. So it stands that Late Nights & Longnecks is easily Moore’s best album, capitalizing on a vocal style that owes an obvious debt to the Mark Chesnutts and Tracy Byrds of the 90s. In terms of actual technical skill, Moore is more Byrd than Chesnutt, and he’s noticeably flat on “Airport Bar” and “Jesus and Jack Daniels.”
Still, that Moore co-wrote those songs at all represents meaningful growth for him. There’s not a single novel idea on the album, but Moore’s co-writing is simply better than what he’s offered thus far: Faint praise to say that they’re better than most of 2019’s radio fodder, but “Why We Drink” and “Someday I Gotta Quit” are legitimately well-written. And, if not groundbreaking in any way, the fact that Moore created a complete set of drinking-themed songs demonstrates a more thoughtful approach than what many of his contemporaries are routinely releasing. Late Nights & Longnecks is a lean record, too: Not one of its ten tracks goes on any longer than it actually needs to, and that economy impresses most on “Someday I Gotta Quit” and “Airport Bar,” either of which could emerge as a career-redefining single for Moore. Even if there’s some serendipity involved in how Moore’s trend-chasing happened to align with his relative strengths, Late Nights & Longnecks marks the first time that Justin Moore has seemed like an artist worth keeping an eye on.
Published as part of Rooted & Restless | Issue 5