The last two Vince Gill albums announced their intentions within their titles: 2011’s Guitar Slinger found plenty of space for his six-string prowess, whilst his 2013 duet with Paul Franklin was a valentine to Bakersfield country. Down to My Last Bad Habit, his first solo album in a half-decade, is a slightly more complicated affair. While it can’t be called a concept album, it’s certainly unified by a soulful sensibility, trading heavily on slow, simmering grooves and favoring a feel so warm it feels as comfortable as an old tattered sweater.
A lot of skill went into a record that appears so casual, and Vince Gill is, once again, the chief architect of this record, writing every number and co-producing with Justin Niebank, playing all the guitar and singing most of the harmonies, too. Each of these components is impressive on its own – Vince Gill is a consummate guitarist and his writing is nearly as tasteful and assured – and it’s possible to listen and concentrate only on these elements, marveling at craft that’s polished but never too slick, or perhaps being struck how the guitarist finds space for both jazz trumpeter Chris Botti and Nashville upstart Cam, neither feeling out of place in this setting.
Nevertheless, the primary attraction of Down to My Last Bad Habit is its vibe, how Gill maintains an elegant, soulful air throughout the record even when he’s singing about Jimmy Dickens or sneaking in a little bit of fingerpicking. The only time he breaks the spell is for the closer, “Sad One Comin’ On (A Song for George Jones),” a hardcore honky tonk weepie that suits the spirit of the Possum and also serves as a reminder of Vince Gill’s deep country roots, but the appeal of Down to My Last Bad Habit feels more Memphis than Nashville: it’s Vince Gill’s soul album, which is a welcome thing indeed.