As another fall gets underway, that can only mean the debut release of the American Idol Season 10 winner. Scotty McCreery, who stuck by his country music heritage tooth and nail on the show, delivers a wholesome and all-American set with Clear as Day, which was produced by Carrie Underwood’s frequent collabortor Mark Bright. While Day oozes with teenage angst and boyish fantasies, each track clings tightly to a history that flourishes in storytelling and imagery.
“Out of Summertime,” co-written by Jonathan Singleton and Tim Nichols, gallops past the ear drums in a frollicking tale of love that only vanishes with the arrival of fall. In much the same way as Deanna Carter’s “Strawberry Wine,” “Summertime” tells the tale of love that heats up in the summer and quickly dissipates in September. It kicks off McCreery’s debut with enough grit and passion to hook the listener into sticking around for more. Unlike “Wine,” “Summertime” does not linger on what should have or could have been, but instead crafts an easygoing take on the merriment of young love.
McCreery’s Idol coronation song and lead single, “I Love You This Big,” with songsmiths Ronnie Jackson, Brett James, Ester Dean, and Jay Smith at the helm, sets the stage as the first ballad entry on Day. The lyrics could have benefited from a more masterful undertaking, but McCreery is able to pump the right amount of power and emotion into the track without it coming across as cheap and unnecessary. Sure, a seventeen year old should never sing about loving “this big,” but it captures his journey to Hollywood perfectly. From the small country town of Garner, North Carolina, McCreery is grounded in the right set of beliefs and in down-home enthusiasm.
“Clear as Day,” the album title track, which was written by Phil O’Donnell, Casey Beathard, and Adam Wheeler, comes off as just another young love story until the last few lines take the song in an unexpected direction. McCreery’s soaring vocals drench the track with a gut-wrenching nostalgia for a relationship that died at the hands of fate. Reminiscent of Garth Brooks’ The Dance, McCreery reinvents an idea that could run stale with too many listens, but his smooth interpretation lingers on the listener’s heart without being overly dramatic.
His current single, “The Trouble with Girls,” written by Phillip White and Chris Tompkins, is a track with little vision or clever hook. With an album that was taking off nicely, McCreery plunges into mediocrity on this tune. Four tracks in, this is the third ballad in a row. Perhaps this set’s track listing should have been rearranged a bit, or “Trouble” could have been omitted altogether. McCreery talks girls, specifically “trying to figure out just what them girls are all about.” However, for McCreery’s incredibly loyal fan base, which is mostly teenage girls, they will eat this up.
“Water Tower Town,” envisioned by Cole Swindell, Lynn Hutton, and Tammi Kidd, is a celebratory anthem about small town life. “Working hard and livin’ right is the only life we know,” McCreery sings. That mentality, plus a shout out to sweet tea, is what makes this track a nice change of pace and a highlight of Day. Sure, a few cliches slipped themselves into the lyrics, but a country record would not quite be the same without a few sprinkled in. McCreery’s phrasing and handling of the steamrolling lyrics on the chorus, which have such an infectious hook suited for a single release, are impressive for his age and level of experience. With such feel good anthemic material, McCreery fits right in amongst contemporaries like Brad Paisley and Jason Aldean.