THE GRADE B
BOTTOM LINE The Aerosmith singer goes solo and goes country.
Steven Tyler will always sound like Steven Tyler, bless his heart, whether you surround the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with Aerosmith’s hard rock or squads of banjos.
So his solo country debut, “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere” (Big Machine), isn’t really as big a departure as one might expect. After all, country arguably has more in common with ’70s album rock these days than pop-rock does and, in any case, the album is still very Tyler-centric.
It’s not that far a jump from, say, Aerosmith’s “What It Takes” to Tyler’s “What Am I Doin’ Right?” aside from the acoustic guitars and the prominent tambourine. The swaggering, blues-tinged rock of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly & Me” could have easily fit on any number of Aerosmith albums over the years, as Tyler relishes the chance to rock out.
The album is actually at its most interesting when Tyler reinvents “Janie’s Got a Gun” as an acoustic blues jam, as he tries to sound his most menacing amid the fiddles and the jangling. His countrified take on “Piece of My Heart” is as thrilling as you’d expect, his voice filled with bluesy breaks and ad libs.
All that makes many of his adventures into mainstream country feel a bit underwhelming. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the ready-for-country-radio niceness of “Gypsy Girl,” but it doesn’t give Tyler enough to sink his famous teeth into. The acoustic pop bounciness of “I Make My Own Sunshine” — which opens with the perky, “Everything is wonderful, everything is great and I’m as free as the bird outside my windowpane” — feels more than a little forced from someone who gave us the cataclysmic “Dream On.”
Tyler may embrace the “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere” vibe, but when you’re “Steven Tyler from Aerosmith” it sometimes falls a little short.