At 33, Niemann is a reformed hat act with wildly catholic taste, and his second major-label LP subverts mainstream country tropes while chatting them up at the bar. The title track is a semi-rapped manifesto with Beck flow and an irresistible twang-pop chorus. And "Only God Could Love You More" suggests country weepers secretly crave sly drum programming.
It's not for nothing that Jerrod Niemann calls his second major-label album Free the Music: he's stepped far outside the box, so much so that the doo wop inflections of his 2010 breakthrough hit "Lover, Lover" seem conventional. Niemann is woozy and playful throughout Free the Music, displaying an impish sense of humor by calling an old-timey shuffle in the style of Leon Redbone "Honky Tonk Fever" and generally avoiding anything that could be called classically country (the closest he comes is "Real Women Drink Beer," which itself is colored by splashy Vegas horns). Which doesn't mean this is a pop or rock album, not even with the hints of arena rock ballads or drinking songs set to looped rhythms.
Just past the halfway point on his second major label album, Jerrod Niemann mentions his appetite for music that lands “somewhere between Americana and rock ‘n’ roll.” He clearly has more than a passing knowledge of both of those forms, along with what it is about them that earns audiences’ respect, and he applies it to a mainstream country context on Free The Music. Niemann wrote or co-wrote each of the dozen songs on the album, something that means a lot in Americana—where singer-songwriters are among the most celebrated citizens—and rock—where no act that doesn’t write originals is taken seriously. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to call it a concept album, in the sense that Sgt.