I guess there's two ways to approach a critical analysis of this record. Firstly on its own merit and as a piece of work independent of its predecessors and then secondly in direct comparison to said predecessors. Taking the first route, Here's To Taking It Easy is blissful. Matthew Houck's fragile vocals are complemented and bolstered by a full band and swelling, rich orchestration full of horns, meaty rhythm and soaring backing vocals. It comes off the back of 2009's For Willie, an album of Willie Nelson covers, and sees Houck's writing happier, fuller and and more linear.
Now for the second route. Houck's 2007 release Pride was an exceptional piece of work. It was uncompromising and difficult, it was haunting and utterly bewitching. As track after track sprawled out over nine minutes it hypnotized you with its looped vocals and stark atmospherics. Houck's same fragility threatened to break under this weight and the tension was what kept you hanging on. There is very little of that approach in this record and so I must admit to a certain degree of disappointment. I had figured the tempo and general upbeatness of For Willie was due to it being covers. But it looks like this is the way Houck is heading. Having said that, I love it as a country record, full of heartfelt tales of sorrow and love-lost. I think I'm over-thinking this way too much.