On Tulip Drive, reigning CMA New Artist of the Year JIMMIE ALLEN proves he isn’t a flash in the pan – he’s here to stay, says Cait Watters.
Allen first hit the charts in 2018, debut single ‘Best Shot’ topping them, as did the follow up ‘Make Me Want To’. Since then his career has gone from strength to strength with tours both sides of the pond; awards; and, now, Tulip Drive, his third album. Allen is the future of country music, someone that knows his roots but isn’t afraid to venture from them.
I’ll start with the inevitable recognition that gatekeepers of the genre are going to take issue with a few songs on this record. ‘pesos’, a collaboration with CeeLo Green and T-Pain; and ‘on my way’ with Jennifer Lopez are certainly pushing the boundaries of ‘country’. I didn’t care, I enjoyed both. The first is a sizzlingly fun latin inspired number about living life to the fullest; the latter a gripping, powerful poppy track that’s just utterly captivating, the power of Lopez’s and Allen’s voices shining.
However, your JLos and CeeLos are ultimately overshadowed by Aadlyn, Allen’s eight year old son, who features on ‘you won’t be alone’. Granted, Aadlyn’s contribution is just five words, a sweet declaration of love for his father, but it opens a beautiful number that, to Allen, is likely about fatherhood – though, really, it can relate to a number of situations. The world isn’t perfect, the world can be scary, Allen sings, but he promises that no matter what, he’s not going anywhere, he’s going to be there for all of it. It’s lovely, it’s personal, and it’s an absolute highlight of the record.
That’s why Allen is, and will be for a long time, a force to be reckoned with in country music. He’s versatile, bringing the fun and the emotions, switching between them with ease. There’s something for everyone on Tulip Drive.
We have sexy tracks like ‘what i’m talking about’ and ‘kissin you’ – this latter is the sort of song I’ve heard a hundred times from a hundred different artists but Allen’s packs a special spark, lines like ‘all I need is a look and a come close touch’ feeling electric. We also have heavy hitters in songs like ‘habits and hearts’, a ballad about addiction, love and the struggles that an addict faces when trying to juggle both – ‘so tired of seein’ tears rollin’ down your face, but habits are harder than hearts to break’ are lyrics that will tug at your heart, and hit home hard for some.
More poignancy is found on ‘down home’. Allen has admitted that this is a personal album, and his first where he’s really opened up about his life. ‘This is the first [album] where I chose to write songs about my own personal experiences, thoughts and hopes.’ This much is evident here, a tribute track to his late father. ‘I still hate that you’re gone, I wish you were here’ are vulnerable words but it’s not a downbeat song. A steady beat and strong chorus accompanies Allen as he shows that he’s still carrying on, his father still with him and living on through memories like music and the number fifteen – that was the number his father wore when he played baseball, and it’s become special to the Allen family.
A pinch of the 80s adds to the overall flavor, too. This throwback sound seems to be a recent trend, certainly something that I’ve noticed more and more. There’s potential of it becoming tiresome, but I’m pleased to report that Allen’s intentional or not attempt at turning back the clock sounds great, not forced. ‘keep em coming’ has gentle verses that lead into crashing choruses; and ‘wouldn’t feel like summer’ is a nice chill, finger-snapper of a singalong song.
At seventeen tracks long, there’s a lot here but that’s a good thing. If you’re not (yet) a Jimmie Allen fan, give this a listen because you’ll almost certainly find something for you. Allen’s versatility is a strength and why he won’t be going away anytime soon.
Jimmie Allen – Tulip Drive – Track Listing
1. be alright
2. what i’m talkin bout
3. kissin you
4. down home
5. settle on back
6. pesos (feat. CeeLo Green & T-Pain)
7. love in the living room
8. on my way (Jimmie Allen & Jennifer Lopez)
9. broken hearted (feat. Katie Ohh)
10. habits & hearts
11. right now
12. wouldn’t feel like summer
14. get you a girl
15. keep em coming
16. every time i say amen
17. you won’t be alone (feat. Aadyn)