There’s a pretty fine line between bland and boring. There are many records that succeed because of their inoffensiveness, but are catchy or likeable enough that they build a sizeable audience. The old classic technique in pop is to build an album of filler around one catchy single. However, in a genre like country, which thrives on specificity, and evoking a specific time or place, it’s much harder to succeed on ease alone. Timothy B. Schmit, former bassist for The Eagles’ new album Leap of Faith at first seems ambitious, with its lengthy runtime personal themes, but unfortunately Schmit doesn’t quite have what’s needed to push it beyond genre tropes.
When first listening to the album, My Hat seems like a solid opening track. Its mix of warm bass and sparkling guitar is a luxurious sound, and Schmit’s voice, whilst very clean, conveys an appealing weariness. Even though the track then progresses in a fairly typical country-song fashion, with mellow Rhodes keyboards, and restrained vocal melodies, it’s a pleasing progression nonetheless. Schmit’s lyrics are very direct – “sometimes I think way too much / and things happen way too fast” – but he seems very open, and confident in his own fallibility. It’s a little disconcerting then, when the opening of the second track, Slow Down is virtually identical. The guitar riff is different, but the formula is the same. The main difference is that the tempo is slower, and as such, the track is a minute-and-a-half longer, which becomes something of a running theme on the album.
The album is never exactly bad, but there aren’t any notable moments or tracks that stand out, either. The songs are generally indistinct, and the tempo sticks firmly below mid. Without exciting, catchy melodies to hook listeners, the onus is on the production, which is about as typical pop-country as it gets. Whilst the majorit’s of the tracks are pleasant and slick on their own, over the course of the entire album, the style grows wearying. Even Schmidt’s lyrics, which initially seem interesting, quickly devolve into an mix of generalisation, and somewhat odd clarification. He’ll say something poetic like “happiness is not an absolute”, but then frustratingly follow it up with “you need to find what works for you”. There’s a lot of potential for introspection and drama in his songs, but the lyricism is just too clumsy for it to come across. The lyrics just feel like they needed a few more drafts to really let the sentiments breathe, instead of bogging them down in songwriting tropes.
Leap of Faith is by-and-large, a competent album. It’s slickly produced, the songs have some interesting subject matter, and Schmit has a solid grasp of what makes a country song work, but he just can’t seem to make them work over the course of an enitre album. Between the slow tempos, and the mixed quality of the lyrics, the album grows tiring around the midpoint of its 70 minute(!) runtime. Leap of Faith isn’t going to turn many people off straight away, but it’s hard to remember once it’s over.