Brantley Gilbert may sing about not breaking the bro code but he eagerly breaks the code of bro country. That much was apparent on Just as I Am, the 2014 album that generated the smash hit "Bottoms Up," the single that cemented Gilbert's stardom, but The Devil Don't Sleep -- the 2017 sequel to Just as I Am -- makes it plain that Gilbert intends to separate himself from his party-hearty brethren. If Gilbert sounds like anybody, it's Jason Aldean -- Brantley wrote several of Jason's hits including "Dirt Road Anthem," but the connection goes further than that; "Way Back" even has a skittish electronic beat reminiscent of "Burnin' It Down" -- but he manages to spin his grinding minor-key midtempo tunes into a place that doesn't seem morose. Pensive, sure -- Gilbert can make a weekend out partying seem like a brooding affair -- but he rarely seems dour on the bigger, bolder tunes, all of which sound like they're just on the verge of cutting loose. This reticence toward rocking accentuates how Gilbert really doesn't belong among modern country's bros. He's more of a romantic, specializing in lightly soulful slow-burners that wind up complementing his minor-key anthems. If he sometimes gets stuck in sticky sentiments, particularly when writing love songs, he nevertheless pulls himself free through sheer sturdy craft. At 16 tracks, The Devil Don't Sleep is a little bit long -- an impression exacerbated by its slow tempos -- but its individual components are strong, which means even if the album doesn't quite have momentum it's nevertheless always satisfying to sample. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
- Format: Vinyl
- Genre: Pop
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