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Sweet Southern Sugar [Explicit Version]

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Performer Notes
  • Hopping over to Broken Bow Records after a one-album spell at Warner, Kid Rock doubles down on the contention that he's now a country artist -- a notion that was first made explicit on 2015's First Kiss but stretches back to at least 2010's Born Free, when the former Bob Ritchie attempted to make a Bob Seger album with Rick Rubin. Sweet Southern Sugar still has some hardscrabble Detroit in its soul but, like its title suggests, its heart is in Dixie, which is where Kid imagines his audience in 2017 also lies. Certainly, Sweet Southern Sugar is loaded with red state signifiers, but it's not a political album per se, as Kid Rock is simply celebrating all the things that make libs cry. At times, this makes his lyrics play like a profane game of Mad Libs -- particularly on the clumsy "Bawitadaba" re-write "Greatest Show on Earth" and "Grandpa's Jam," whose title seems like an excuse for the song's corny rhymes -- but the words aren't nearly as important as the throwback sound of Sweet Southern Sugar. Steeped in the seedy '70s, Sweet Southern Sugar deliberately evokes the greasy blues of ZZ Top but drifts toward such hammy rockers as Black Oak Arkansas, occasionally winding up in Ram Jam territory. As retro as this album feels, Rock still finds space for plenty of old-school raps and a reinvention of the Four Tops' "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch" as a slow jam -- sounds that may nominally be fresher than Rock's old-fashioned hard rock, but which are still rooted firmly in the past. Living in the past is the key not just to Sweet Southern Sugar but Kid Rock's reinvention as a country singer. The music hasn't changed much, nor has his swagger, but the times have, leaving Kid Rock sounding older and squarer than his years. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Professional Reviews
Rolling Stone - 3 stars out of 5 -- "What's notable about his 11th studio set is how entertaining, even empathetic, it can occasionally be."
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