Comparisons between Luke Bryan and Randy Houser will become more convincing after you listen to the 17 songs on Fired Up, Randy’s 5th studio album. The two vocalists share many of the same writers, embrace similar themes and (with this album) lean into more progressive production.
Of course, Randy Houser’s big country voice separates him from Luke and just about any male in country music. Fans looking for the next “Anything Goes” or “Like a Cowboy” will find it during songs like “Senior Year” and “Back.” The first will make everyone’s list of Top 3 songs from the album, it was written by Randy Houser and good friend Rob Hatch, and it’s his best vocal performance on the record. The Jeffrey Steel co-written “Back” is also strong, and perhaps more single-ready.
Neither are the best vocal performance on the album, however. Chris Stapleton joins Randy for “One Way,” an honest country ballad that rounds out this enormous album. The pairing is an embarrassment of riches: think Adele singing backup for Frank Sinatra, or Ronnie Dunn pitching in on a Mariah Carey song.
On the other end of the sonic spectrum you’ll find “Mine Tonight” and “Chasing Down a Good Time,” a song that could have found room on Luke Bryan’s Kill The Lights. Thematically Randy Houser sticks to familiar country love stories or memories of childhood, but there’s a little more thump, bump and jump in many arrangements. “True” (written about fiancée Tatiana Starzynski) also pushes him sonically before morphing into a more standard production.
Randy Houser doesn’t jump head first into any one direction, however, something that’s difficult to do when you’ve included 17 songs. Fans who don’t care for the more layered production of “Before Midnight” will love the raw, easier to digest “Same Ole Saturday Night.” Those who think “Lucky Me” is sleepy will turn up the volume on “Little Bit Older” to 11. Fired Up isn’t as much of cohesive thought as it is a collection of ideas presented to fans to pick through.