Review Summary: Note to Billy: you are not Bruce Springsteen.
There was once a time when Billy Ray Cyrus might have been able to pull off an album like this. Basically what ol’ Bobby Ray Stewart (his real pop culture identity after years of absurdly atrocious Disney-Channel acting performances that make Nic Cage and Keanu Reeves resemble the 2nd coming of Daniel Day Lewis) is aiming for here is a good ol’ fashioned Country n Western AMERICANA album. The obvious problem is Billy Ray Cyrus’ musical talent is dwarfed by his daughter, whose own ability barely surpasses the philosophical bellows of your average Holstein cow, and the fact his name is not Bruce Springsteen, Toby Keith, or any other artist that likes to sing about AMERICAN concepts like bald eagles flying through the stars and bars clutching an Apple pie at a baseball game. Or playing football with his big bro and how they fought over who got to kiss the local inbred girl first, how a bunch of his pa’s buddies and uncles took a lead sandwich in Nam, or how it was really awesome going to high school in small town jerkwater USA but totally sucked ass once he had to go fight some damn war and tell his ma he’ll probably never see her again.
Billy Ray most likely never got the memo that to pull off something like this you either have to be a legitimate redneck (Keith), or possess a shred of talent (The Boss). Back in the early 90’s Cyrus released the quintessential anthem for good old sister-jamming Redneck methodology in “Achy Breaky Heart,” while easily being one of the worst songs ever written actually had some sincerity because rednecks do line-dance and pump their fists to sh*t like that. It also helped that album cover showcased a glorious mullet that could only be crafted in a trailer park outhouse by a chain-smoking, disheveled Sally-Sue type whose flappy fat rolls are more pungent than a rotting egg travelling through a freshly decomposing corpse. Billy Ray used to be a legit redneck and could have gotten away with releasing 8 songs telling the same story about grandma’s health, ma’s cooking, non-homoeroticly roughhousing with his bros, and how hot his 2nd cousin used to be. When you spend 6 years wearing pretty-boy jeans and spending more time on your pseudo-European hairstyle while managing the shenanigans of a pop star diva daughter and a dumbass son whose intellectual peak is sniffing his own gas, you’re no longer a redneck. Further, collaborating with the likes of Amy Grant (who makes Taylor Swift sound like Death Metal), doesn’t earn any AMERICAN patriotic ass kicking points.
Talking about how freedom aint free is a fun concept to country singers, even if ironically it was best done by a couple of snarky slackers who like to bash every inch of America in a weekly cartoon. The problem with Billy Ray Cyrus is he’s no longer a legitimate country singer, and the only way Americana is done right is if it’s set to glorious anthemic punk, performed by dudes who actually do own a few coon hounds and drink a case of Schlitz every few days, or if their name happens to be Springsteen. Billy Ray is an American by birth, and while we can certainly make an argument about how the cash-grabbing methodologies behind Hannah Montana are absolutely American, the type of “American” Billy Ray is aiming for here is an archetype he cannot legitimately achieve. This type of “American” is a badass, and Miley Cyrus’ pa absolutely is not one.