After years of major-label false starts, raucous live shows, and penning songs for other artists, and many dues-paying miles logged, Missouri native Chris Janson enjoyed some well-deserved success with the lotto-winning-daydream title anthem of his major-label debut. Most of the rest of “Boat” is just as seaworthy: The album’s 11 tracks, all co-written by Janson, offer a pleasing range of contemporary and vintage vibes, from the rip-snorting harmonica blaster “Back in My Drinkin’ Days” to the serpentine grooves of “Messin’ With Jesus,” a duet with Tim McGraw. While a few tracks sound like they might once have been intended for others — the lazin’ and lovin’ “Under the Sun” plays like a lost Kenny Chesney ballad, whlie party rocker “Right in the Middle” boot-stomps up Jason Aldean’s alley — two standouts on “Boat” are clearly personal. The classic country ballads “Holdin’ Her,” dripping in pedal steel and smoky organ, and “Where You Come In,” a tender piano rumination are heartfelt paeans to true love, and the restorative and transformative powers it can hold.
ESSENTIAL “Holdin’ Her”