Release Date: Nov 16, 2010
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, American Trad Rock
Kid Rock has made no secret of his desire to follow in Bob Seger’s footsteps, but it still comes as a mild shock to have Bob Ritchie deliver an album that feels like it could have slipped in unnoticed between Against the Wind and The Distance in Seger’s discography. That’s precisely what the Rick Rubin-produced Born Free is, a striking re-creation of the waning days of the Silver Bullet Band, the time when the energy started to dissipate and a fascination with country ballads seeped into the heartland rock. It’s a comfortable setting for Kid Rock, who has slowly abandoned rap for country as he crept closer to middle age, but Born Free doesn’t feel lazy: it’s tightly written and crisply articulated thanks in large part to Rubin’s recruitment of an all-star supporting band anchored by Red Hot Chili Pepper Chad Smith, Chavez vet Matt Sweeney, Los Lobos guitarist David Hidalgo, and Heartbreaker Benmont Tench.
Both Kid Rock and Born Free producer Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, the Dixie Chicks) established their reputations while straddling the worlds of hip-hop and heavy metal, and both have revealed over time a penchant for ”authentic”-sounding, geezerish rock. So it comes as no huge surprise that their first-ever collaboration is a meeting of minds, or that the meeting takes place in the metaphorical vicinity of Bob Seger?s back porch. Seger actually turns up to play piano on the breezy Sheryl Crow duet ”Collide,” and the album is full of songs with a distinctly Seger-esque vibe, like the anthemic title track, the big-chorused ”Purple Sky,” and Kid Rock?s heartfelt tribute to his hometown of Detroit, ”Times Like These.
Make no mistake: Kid Rock’s songwriting has only rarely soared above average. His career was launched with a rap-metal guilty pleasure in “Bawitdaba” and peaked sometime during 2008 after his butchery of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” forged the execrable “All Summer Long.” Upon learning that Born Free, the Detroit rapper-cum-rockabilly’s eighth studio effort, would lean uniformly toward the campfire melodies of the latter, it seems as though this could be the final nail in the coffin for Rock’s self-aggrandizing pimp persona. Of course, true to his track record, Rock’s lyrics still manage to reek of bogus angst while his music is watered down to appeal to the lowest common denominator.