Let’s be honest. Vince Gill could sing the phone book and we would all swoon. He has that voice. Smooth. Strong. Recognizable. And we get all of it on his latest album Okie.
Vince was intentional in making this album more about the songs and lyrics, then about the music behind it. It’s noticeable, and it’s fantastic.
Gill isn’t focused on creating music made for radio — he never has been. He creates emotional, melancholy songs. Songs which as he says, are “judgement free.” Simply storytelling. He isn’t afraid to tackle tough issues. In “Forever Changed” he sings about those victims of sexual assault; “What Choice Will You Make” takes on abortion. Hard topics that Gill sings about honestly and openly, no gimmicks or hidden meanings.
“A Letter To My Mama” is a beautiful tribute to all moms. It is a song that Vince held onto for awhile — 18 years — until it was the right time. And on this album it fits right in. Vince also pays tribute to his country singer idol — Merle Haggard, in “A World Without Haggard.” The song sounds authentic, like Vince didn’t just sing it to show his dedication to the country genre, but because Haggard, and the way he wrote and delivered his songs, is still something Gill looks up to.
Gill co-wrote “Black and White” with Charlie Worsham, a simple song that begs the question, were we better off in black and white? “When they told the truth on the news at night, too far left, too far right?” The song isn’t preachy, or taking sides. It’s honest and perhaps starts a larger conversation.
Vince wasn’t joking when he designated Okie as his most personal album yet. Between “An Honest Man” and “The Price of Regret” Gill has no problem admitting when he is wrong, and staying true to himself in the ever changing and growing Nashville scene.
It wouldn’t be a true country storytelling album, without a particular murder and cover-up song. “The Old Man of Mine” depicts a mean, drunk, father, who his family feared. If anything it sounds like the prequel to Haggard’s “Mama Tried.” An absolute brilliant piece of songwriting.
The song that seems to stand out the most on the album is “When My Amy Prays.” Vince plays the song not only as a way to honor his wife, but to tell his truth on his relationship with Jesus. He states that his wife Amy is the one who grew up in a strong faith, and continues to grow in that, where his own beliefs have often faltered. Just a beautiful song from start to finish.
I’m not sure how Vince Gill continues to make amazing, substantial music. In Okie we are given a personal, honest album, that at times is difficult and sad to listen to. But that is what music should be, and if anyone knows good music, it’s THE Vince Gill.