If we needed more proof that the music world has got over its obsession with tribalism, with clearly demarcated generic styles, with the strictures of past traditions, that even the often set in its ways country sound is exploring beyond its comfort zones, Sunshine provides it. With one foot definitely in the country zone, and the more rock and roll part of it too, the other is planted firmly in more broader commercial territories, more pop infused musical climates. And the result is something that will still tick a lot of boxes for those who know just how they like their country music to sound but which also has the power to take the genre to a whole new, younger and more broad-minded audience.
If the alt-country movement of the last few decades took the serious side of the genre and intensified it by blending it with indie cool and rock earnestness, this is alt-country that revels in the freedom and sheer joy that can only be found in pop music. Sunshine is celebratory, anthemic and best of all fun. No brooding cowboy crooner, no driving off into the sunset in the faithful old pick up truck, no trusty dog in sight, just a sun-kissed love letter to life. This is country music California style.
Sunshine is the sound of the modern age being fashioned out of traditional strands. Those strands may be well established, country stylings, rock muscle and a pop accessibility but songs such as this are very much a modern sound. As old as country music is, this is it hitting its most unashamedly commercial stride, and why not, there is nothing wrong with selling records after all. It is the notion of rock music dropping all the cliche and bombast and just providing the engine to drive such an infectious sound. It also shows that even the most infectious of pop songs don’t have to follow the modern production line methods, that a popular song can also be musically astute and that you don’t need dance routines and videos of scantily clad ladies to do so.
It isn’t often that commerciality and integrity pair up but that is what Brian Lee Bender has managed to pair together here. No tricks, no gimmicks, no smoke and mirrors, just a case of getting the basics right first time. The basics in this case being good song writing and a great delivery. The success of the first is proven by the fact that it is built from fairly simple, unadorned musical lines. Less is more, as they say but it is also about choosing just the right pieces of “less,” working out only what it needs and serving the song. And as for delivery, well, that’s obvious, just listen.