A sprawling disc of storytelling, pop history and partying, Kid Rock's ninth studio album seeks the grooves and reach of classic soul – with a Detroit bull-god spin, of course. Self-produced in Michigan with his colorful Twisted Brown Trucker Band, this ruggedly consistent and robustly sung music jumps genres and makes statements. Soul, according to Kid Rock, does what it wants.
Kid Rock went the respectable rock route on 2010's Born Free and it didn't pay back any dividends. He failed to garner any newfound love from buttoned-down critics and, more importantly, he didn't sell many copies of the new album, so when it came time to record a follow-up he returned to his tried and true, embracing his impeccable sense of sleaze. And so Rebel Soul is as tawdry as Born Free was clean, a celebration of every tacky obsession Kid Rock has, from strippers to downriver brawling with Detroit white trash.
Kid Rock shed his backwoods battle-rap style to be a trailer-park troubadour long ago, but his ninth album still finds him rolling a pony keg through the intersection of hip-hop and country. Rock’s vivid narratives elevate ho-hum Seger-isms like ”God Save Rock N Roll.” Rebel Soul lives and dies by his yarn-spinning — when he abandons personal flourishes in favor of toasting to domestic beer and working-class honeys, the record’s charm dissipates like so much smoke at the cliché mill. B- Best Tracks:Chickens in the PenGod Save Rock N Roll .
Kid Rock’s music qualifies as Southern boogie the same way that Cracker Barrel qualifies as a “down-home” establishment: all of the gimmickry, none of the soul. As on 2010’s Born Free, the Detroit-born rap n’ roller continues to jettison hip-hop postures in favor of straight-ahead rock. The result, Rebel Soul, befits an election year. It’s a very safe affair, full of platitudes and conspicuous all-American gestures.
Of all the pop genres, country has manned its borders the most ferociously, and that’s been to its detriment. A world with slow or no influx of new ideas is a dying one. But while you can police sounds, you can’t police people, and the genre’s embrace in recent years of the onetime rap-rock kingpin Kid Rock and his former sidekick Uncle Kracker has as much to do with their charm offensive as with their music.
Whatever one might say about Kid Rock, you can’t say he isn’t dedicated: to repping his beloved hometown Detroit, to acknowledging his own musical heroes — from Seger to Aerosmith to Run DMC — to recognizing the power of a good time, however that might be defined for the listener. (For him it apparently includes lots of wine. ) Rock’s been doing all that since his ’90s breakthrough, but it’s been a long time since he’s sounded like he’s having as much fun doing it as he does on “Rebel Soul.