Artist: Steven Tyler
Album: We’re All Somebody From Somewhere
Label: Dot Records
Release Date: 07/15/2016
If you’re looking for Aerosmith lite, Steven Tyler’s We’re All Somebody From Somewhere is not for you, but if you’re open to hearing a familiar voice in unfamiliar territory, then this much-anticipated album is worth a listen. In the works for more than a year since Tyler moved to Nashville and recruited local songwriting talent to help him craft a blend of traditional country and hard-rocking riffs, We’re All Somebody is, remarkably, the Aerosmith front man’s first solo album in a career well into its fifth decade.
At age 68, Tyler’s voice remains strong. His full-throated shriek still pierces, but it’s a bit softer around the edges, which suits the material here just fine. Two songs were released as the album was a work in progress: “Love Is Your Name” followed by “Red, White and You.” The former is a light, upbeat tune that’s hard to imagine appearing on an Aerosmith record. It’s not exactly Nashville, but it’s one of the album’s most memorable tracks. “Red, White and You” is country rock with some redneck flavor, a stretch for Tyler who’s usually associated with Boston, but was actually born in New York City. Still, he pulls it off, with enough of an edge to give the song some bite.
The title track is noteworthy for its message of inclusiveness in these divided times but is less interesting musically. “My Own Worst Enemy” touches all the bases of a country song — drinking, heartbreak, Mama — and might sound clichéd if not for Tyler’s vocals, his best on the album. “I Make My Own Sunshine” is a standout in terms of accessibility and freshness. For the Aerosmith faithful, there’s an updated “Janie’s Got a Gun,” but it seems out of place among the surrounding songs. A better cover is “Piece of My Heart,” the Janis Joplin classic Tyler chose to close the album. It’s right in his wheelhouse and he matches Janis’s intensity, no easy feat, even for someone with Tyler’s lung capacity.
If there were an Alt-Country category, We’re All Somebody From Somewhere would be it. Reactions among Aerosmith fans have been mixed — some have gone as far as calling it a sellout — but more adventurous listeners who appreciate artists willing to break out of narrow boundaries that have defined their careers will find more than a few things to like. It’s good to see Steven Tyler pushing the envelope, not too far, but just enough to keep it interesting.