With a mere 3 releases under his belt as a solo artist it’s applaudable how far Vermont born Aaron Lewis has come. From fronting the post-grunge outfit Staind, Lewis has evolved and matured as a country artist all the while retaining the same quality of song writing.
His 2nd full length LP Sinner doesn’t stray too far from his debut. In terms of style it does offer up a new perspective and insight into Lewis; undeniably autobiographical, cathartic and filled with heartfelt and emotion.
The self titled track ‘Sinner’ (featuring Willie Nelson) opens with an almost epic, climatic countdown to a banjo/guitar/harmonica driven delivery until the unmistakeable vocals take lead. The contribution made by Nelson doesn’t add much substance to the song, and is perhaps merely there for credibility purposes. Nevertheless it’s a powerful, full bodied, all guns blazing country song.
‘That Aint Country’, a song that signifies Lewis’ stance on the current country music climate while praising many of the iconic country singer/songwriters in favour of his contemporary peers. The lines ‘What a sad state of affairs I’m in, Cause I’m trying to compete where I just don’t fit in’ and ‘That ain’t country. That’s a natural fact. It’s full of tales of good times and happy endings. My life ain’t like that’ as recently stated by Lewis, his distaste for the current take on a genre built on passion, heartache, marriage and being a rambling man.
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Lewis does what so many other country artists fail to do; he doesn’t play it safe and appears at ease with confrontation. On the surface it’s not easy to differentiate any substantial differences between himself and his peers until you explore the lyrical content. In’ Northern Redneck’ the lines “…What you all don’t understand, A southern drawl don’t make a man…” and “…There’s Rednecks north of the Mason Dixon, I’m from the north son you’re from the south, Straight out the trailer fresh off the plow…” further emphasise a self distance from the typical mainstream chart country music that’s predominantly southern. You certainly can’t deny there’s a sense of animosity towards some of the southern contemporary peers.
‘Sinner’ is one of few contemporary country albums that offers a level of authenticity that many other albums lack, whether it’s the lyrical content or the delivery you can’t help but give credence to every word Lewis speaks.
The dobro, an essential element instrumental in the traditional country diet, is prominent in many songs on the album such as ‘Lost & Lonely’, ‘Mama’ amongst others. In addition, the harmonica in ‘The Story Of My Life’ provides it with the more conventional country sound.
‘I Lost It All’ is filled with a sense of melancholy, a more subdued track where you can hear the sincerity of emotions pour through Lewis’ vocals. ‘Travelin’ Soldier’ (originally by Bruce Robinson) is perhaps one of the standout tracks, a collaboration with Lewis’ 13 year old daughter, Zoe. Delivered in such an unostentatious manner with such passion, you’d otherwise be led to believe it was Lewis’ own penned track, the same can be said of his 2012 rendition of the Rhett Akins song ‘Grandaddys Gun’.
Sinner is out now on Dot Records.
This Aaron Lewis article was written by Benjamin Chamberlain, a GIGsoup contributor