12 Songs, 47 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Back together after a five-year hiatus, Big Kenny and John Rich reclaim their MuzikMafia mojo on Hillbilly Jedi. Time hasn’t reduced the duo’s flair for provocation—but there’s also plenty of well-crafted balladry here to broaden their appeal. From the start, Big & Rich have melded rock and hip-hop influences with Nashville-style country to forge a sound that’s loud, proud, and hard-stomping. This time out, they enlist Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora to inject extra guitar crunch into “Born Again” and aim for the arena rafters with the anthemic “’Cause I Play Guitar.” Old friend Cowboy Troy applies his rap prowess to the fiddle-driven “Rock the Boat” and the swaggering party tune “Get Your Game On.” The oddest entry here is “M-e-d-l-e-y of the Hillbilly Jedi,” an extended jaunt into faux-lounge jazz and country swing that catches the duo at their quirkiest. At the other extreme are the reverent “That’s Why I Pray,” the yearning, R&B-slanted “Lay It All on Me," and the Roy Orbison–esque “Cheat on You.” It adds up to a diverse, genre-busting release by a pair of mavericks still unwilling to play by the rules.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Back together after a five-year hiatus, Big Kenny and John Rich reclaim their MuzikMafia mojo on Hillbilly Jedi. Time hasn’t reduced the duo’s flair for provocation—but there’s also plenty of well-crafted balladry here to broaden their appeal. From the start, Big & Rich have melded rock and hip-hop influences with Nashville-style country to forge a sound that’s loud, proud, and hard-stomping. This time out, they enlist Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora to inject extra guitar crunch into “Born Again” and aim for the arena rafters with the anthemic “’Cause I Play Guitar.” Old friend Cowboy Troy applies his rap prowess to the fiddle-driven “Rock the Boat” and the swaggering party tune “Get Your Game On.” The oddest entry here is “M-e-d-l-e-y of the Hillbilly Jedi,” an extended jaunt into faux-lounge jazz and country swing that catches the duo at their quirkiest. At the other extreme are the reverent “That’s Why I Pray,” the yearning, R&B-slanted “Lay It All on Me," and the Roy Orbison–esque “Cheat on You.” It adds up to a diverse, genre-busting release by a pair of mavericks still unwilling to play by the rules.

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