Lee Brice ‘Hard 2 Love' (Curb Records)
Lee Brice's sophomore album “Hard 2 Love” proves easy to like, with some songs evoking even deeper feelings, despite the absence of a definitive standout track and presence of the cheesy digit in the title.
Even before he released his debut album, “Love Like Crazy,” two years ago, Brice had developed a reputation as a stalwart country songwriter, and he has earned even more accolades for his songsmithing, especially since he has penned the most-played song on country radio for two years running. In 2010, his smash single “Love Like Crazy” garnered the distinction, and in 2011, Eli Young Band's breakout hit “Crazy Girl,” which Brice co-wrote with Liz Rose, snared the title along with the Academy of Country Music Award for song of the year.
The South Carolina native has honed his pen along with his soulful voice for “Hard 2 Love,” co-writing eight of the 13 tracks and showing off improved interpretive skills on the rest. Sonically, the album may be a bit too homogeneous with its reliance on the mid-tempo ballads that have become Brice's signature, but taken individually, most of the contemporary country tracks are sturdily crafted, relatable and real.
Last month, Brice earned his first No. 1 hit with “A Woman Like You,” the charming first single from “Hard 2 Love.” The catchy title track and country-bluesy “Don't Believe Every Thing You Think,” which he co-wrote for his fiancee Sara Reevely, explore similar thematic territory: A man's man acknowledging that he isn't easy to love but expressing gratitude and fidelity to his woman for doing it anyway.
His bride-to-be's voice is featured at the end of “See About a Girl,” about cutting a boys' night out short to get home to his lady, and their son Takoda chirps his love for his daddy during the fading moments of album closer “One More Day,” about missing his family while playing out on the road. The romantic story song “Seven Days a Thousand Times” benefits immensely from the vivid details and Brice's fervent vocals.
He breaks up all the balladry with a pair of entertaining party songs, “Parking Lot Party” and “Beer.”
While the album doesn't have a clear-cut showstopper, fellow singer-songwriter star Eric Church co-wrote the strongest track, “Life Off My Years,” a poignant and cleverly worded anthem about seizing the day.
— Brandy McDonnell