The most compelling commercial-country slow jam of the year can’t yet be heard on the radio or on any corporate streaming playlist. It begins as a Luke Bryan-style slow jam before crashing into a guitar-crunch country-rock power chorus that would sound right at home playing between songs by Jason Aldean and Chris Young.
“Whatever You’re Up For” is the lead track from the self-titled debut EP by the Kentucky Gentlemen, a twin-brother duo (Brandon and Derek Campbell) based in Nashville and originally from the Bluegrass State. The self-released EP’s five songs, which range from balladry (“Love Language”) to tender midtempo heartbreak (“Lose My Boots”), amount to a quiet provocation: What happens when a nonwhite, nonstraight act operating largely outside of the country-music mainstream beats the Nashville radio ecosystem at its own game?
There’s no better example of this than “Whatever You’re Up For,” a sultry ode to being smitten that was co-produced by Matt McClure, who helped make the song sound like something one of the artists he’s worked with (Lee Brice, Dylan Scott) might send to country radio.
Part of the song’s thrill is observing how little the Campbell brothers need to do to tweak the male country-radio formula in order to make it their own, from the syncopated sing-rapping chorus (“Hit the blacktop/Don’t stop/Till it’s just us around”) to the erotic, rural specificity of the verses (“Hang back, slip your blue jeans off/Or put the bottle in ice in my truck bed toolbox”). Taken in full, it’s both one of the year’s most delectable country come-ons as well as a quiet call to arms: Your turn, Nashville.
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