Old Dominion – ‘Memory Lane’ album review

In the heart of Nashville, where the echoes of country legends mingle with the aspirations of new talents Old Dominion bring a fresh insight to the country music scene built on the solid foundations and traditions of the past. New album, ‘Memory Lane’ is absolutely a bridge between those two worlds.

Individually, Old Dominion were already accomplished songwriters, penning hits for artists like Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley, and The Band Perry but as a band, they found their unique identity, blending contemporary country with rock-infused melodies and insightful storytelling.

Their breakthrough came in 2015 with debut album ‘Meat and Candy’ which featured the chart-topping single ‘Break Up with Him.’ This began a run of formidable consecutive number ones and industry awards. The infectious track showcased their knack for catchy hooks and relatable narratives, instantly resonating with listeners. The album received critical acclaim, setting the stage for their meteoric rise in the country music scene. Old Dominion’s subsequent albums, including ‘Happy Endings’ (2017), ‘Old Dominion’ (2019) and ‘Time, Tequila and Therapy’ (2021) solidified their status as chart-toppers. Hits like ‘No Such Thing as a Broken Heart,’ ‘One Man Band’ and ‘Hotel Key’ not only climbed the country music charts but also became anthems for fans worldwide. Their music seamlessly combines heartfelt lyrics with foot-stomping rhythms, creating a distinctive blend that appeals to a diverse audience all over the world, as evidenced by their willingness to travel outside of the USA and build a loyal and enthusiastic fan base.

New album, ‘Memory Lane’ is absolutely ‘classic’ Old Dominion. It has also had something of a unique release history. A four track ‘sampler’ appeared first which was subsequently expanded to an eight track project and now here we are with an 18 track album, meaning a number of songs on ‘Memory Lane’ have been released three times now in three different but connected guises. It speaks to a band always pushing the boundaries of what is expected, unafraid to break traditions or established ways of doing things.

Introspection and regret form a large part of ‘Memory Lane,’ but I guess the clue is in the title, right? The title track itself stands out as one of the album’s highlights. With evocative lyrics and a palpable sense of longing, the band paint a vivid picture of a past relationship. The wistful references to sunsets, jean-jacket nights, and tangled sheets create a bittersweet atmosphere, leaving a lasting impression. ‘I Should Have Married You,’ possibly the best track on the album, also delves into regret and lost opportunities. The emotional impact is intensified by a snappy, catchy chorus that erupts in handclaps and backing vocals, reminiscent of the best works of artists like Jason Mraz and Train. That level of regret is also found on tracks like ‘Sleep Without Drinking’ and ‘Both Sides of the Bed.’ The former, with its 1970s disco influence and clever lyrics, is a standout hit. The combination of nostalgic guitar sounds and a modern, snappy chorus creates a radio-ready track that perfectly captures the essence of Old Dominion’s musical evolution whilst ‘Both Sides of the Bed’ has a really lovely cadence and melody that echoes the pop greats of the 60s as Matt Ramsey sings about a relationship long gone, railing against his new found freedom and finding it not what he had hoped for. The 60s Pop vibes are strong on this track as Old Dominion continue to push their own creative boundaries as they evolve as writers and musicians.

That type of risk-taking and evolution can also be found on tracks like ‘Easy to Miss,’ which is another song with a 1970’s disco influence. Evoking tracks like ‘New York at Night’ and ‘Lonely Side of Town’ with its smooth, 70s pop guitar and Motown undertone, Ramsey sings about a girl he just can’t forget about on a slick, catchy song that refuses to be defined or pigeonholed into any box or genre. Similarly, ‘Some Horses’ takes long-time fans on a slightly different journey than we’ve had from Old Dominion before in the past. There’s a quiet, intense and slightly darker Western vibe here as Ramsey sings about not being fenced in and how he likes to move on, comparing himself to a wild horse. “I’ll love you forever but you should have known better, some horses can never be tamed.” In the wrong hands this sentiment could come across as gaslighting or an excuse for breaking a girl’s heart but here it’s an intriguing, intense track that draws you into its Johnny Cash style story which makes for one of the best tracks on the album.

If it’s something new you want from Old Dominion then check out ‘Beautiful Sky’ and ‘Can’t Break Up Now.’ The former is a straight down the line, acoustic ballad that evokes bands like The Eagles with its gorgeous harmonies and sparse, yet attention grabbing, production values. ‘Beautiful Sky’ is another stand out track in terms of where the lyrics can take you. It will be a superb live song with the harmonies bringing a power and mesmeric spirit all of their own on a heartfelt tribute to a girl and the power of her love. “You would think you were a drug, the way that I need you,” Ramsey sings, channeling the very best of what Frey, Henley and Co used to be able to do. ‘Can’t Break Up Now,’ meanwhile, is a classic Country duet with a lyrical twist. Featuring rising star, Megan Moroney, we get a picture of a couple pondering separation but ultimately realising that their lives and their history is too intertwined to give up, even though times are tough. Another relatable sentiment from these talented writers, done with a style and a verve that only they can do.

No Old Dominion album would be complete without the band channeling some of their Kenny Chesney, good-time, beach vibes and ‘Memory Lane’ has some fine examples of that. ‘How Good is That’ explores those 1960s and 70s sounds again with the backing vocals sounding like the Beach Boys at their best. Blake Shelton guests on the alternate version here too. It’s classic Old Dominion: snappy lines and clever rhymes on a song designed to make “your heart feel like you just got paid.” “The storm always passes, put on your rose coloured glasses,” the band urge on this simple but catchy sing along designed to put a smile on your face.

Similarly, tracks like ‘Love Drunk and Happy’ and ‘Ain’t Got a Worry’ go someway to providing the playlist and backdrop for all your vacation needs. On the former, Ramsey sings about dying, the way he wants to bow out and what he wants on his headstone whilst on the latter, there’s an almost Reggae-esque vibe perfect for day drinking and vacation moods. For the tee-totalers out there, you can still get drunk, but on another person’s love. Check out ‘Stay Drunk’ where it’s the insistent drums that build to a catchy chorus about all the things that make you want to stay drunk on the love of another person. Classically snappy lyrics, sharp rhymes and relatable observations are the order of the day here, in true Old Dominion style.

‘Memory Lane’ is a masterclass in modern country music, showcasing Old Dominion’s continued growth as musicians and storytellers. The album effortlessly navigates between catchy, foot-tapping tunes and heartfelt, introspective ballads, creating a diverse musical landscape. With their clever lyrics, memorable melodies, and genuine emotional depth, Old Dominion has once again proven why they are one of the leading forces in the country music scene. ‘Memory Lane’ is not just an album; it’s a captivating journey through love, memories, and the complexities of the human heart and is easily the band’s best body of work since ‘Happy Endings.’

Tracklist: 1. Stay Drunk 2. A Million Things 3. Memory Lane 4. Different About You 5. Can’t Break Up Now 6. I Should’ve Married You 7. Both Sides of the Bed 8. How Good is That 9. Some Horses 10. Easy to Miss 11. Sleep Without Drinking 12. Beautiful Sky 13. Love Drunk and Happy 14. Ain’t Got a Worry 15. Easier Said With Rum 16. Hot Again 17. Freedom Like You 18. How Good is That ft Blake Shelton Release Date: October 6th Record Label: Sony Music Buy ‘Memory Lane’ right here

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