I remember the very first time I heard Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” when it debuted on country radio back in 2012. It was one of those moments in music where as a fan you just know something big is about to happen. Before I knew it, the song was a colossal hit, had a remixed version featuring one of mainstream radio’s favorite rappers (Nelly), and was breaking chart records left and right. In fact, I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t know the song whenever it comes on. Fast forward four years later and Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley have become country music’s hottest duo. They have been nominated for and won countless awards, have opened for country super stars like Luke Bryan, headlined Chicago’s first ever Windy City Lake Shake in 2015, and are currently selling out amphitheaters across the country on their dynamic Dig Your Roots Tour in support of their third album of the same title. To say Tyler and BK have had a whirlwind success story feels like a bit of an understatement. Releasing one chart topping single after another, the men of Florida Georgia Line have reinvented country music for the new generation. With their distinct sound, they’ve been putting a modern twist on their traditional country roots since they first made waves with the release of their debut album, Here’s to the Good Times. Love them or hate them, Florida Georgia Line are on top of the world right now, and they don’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
The new album opens with the sound of frogs and crickets, a clear indicator fans are in for something different, just as Hubbard and BK promised. “Smooth” is the first track on the album, and truthfully it only feels like a slight detour from their previously released albums. It’s really on the next song, “Dig Your Roots,” that we get a taste for the new direction the men of FGL have taken. The first thing you immediately notice is that Brian Kelley is actually singing and not just harmonizing on this title track. With his voice at the forefront on several of the tracks on this new album, fans get more of the smooth R&B sound that’s increasingly more frequent in today’s country music which, depending on who you ask, is a really good or really bad thing. Personally, I think it works well for Florida Georgia Line.
It’s Hubbard’s deep southern accent, though, that gives the album the traditional FGL sound fans fell in love with. On the third track we hear what Tyler and BK can do with a reggae beat as they collaborate with Ziggy Marley on what can best be described as a tribute to married life that explains how they feel it should be lived and celebrated on a daily basis. I’m not surprised one bit the next track on the album was picked as the duo’s first single from the album. “Holy” is an exquisite piano driven ballad that pays compliment to Hubbard and Kelley’s wives in such a perfect way that it truly feels like going to church when you listen to it. In the song that follows, Kelley’s voice steers the way through one man’s confession of simply wanting nothing more than to be alone with his woman because the two are so caught up in one another, despite being surrounded by a bar full of people, they “might as well be on an island.” Who wouldn’t want to be the woman he’s singing that to?
On the duo’s recently announced new single, “May We All,” the country duo team up with country icon Tim McGraw as they bring listeners back to their southern roots in a song that reminds us all of a simpler time, and to appreciate the moments that make up our life as opposed to the material objects that we use to fill it. “Summerland,” “Good Girl Bad Boy,” and “Wish You Were On It” are all tracks on this album that feel more reminiscent of their previous albums, and definitely fit the country/pop/hip hop crossover vibe that tends to appeal more to the younger generation of country music fans. This sound gets slowed down a bit on “Lifer,” as BK shares a message that should be shouted from the rooftops. It doesn’t get any more truthful as he croons about being in it for the long haul. If there’s one common theme every song on Dig Your Roots share, it’s that they’re all very personal. It’s clear that these men have grown up and are more concerned with their wives and families than all night ragers.
This maturity can especially be heard in the way they honor their fathers on “While He’s Still Around,” and in the way they cherish their wives on “Grow Old With You.” Both songs are beautifully written and sung with such sincerity you can’t help but feel sentimental while listening to them. I personally hit the repeat button on both of these songs multiple times. “Music is Healing” and “God, Your Mama, and Me” (which features the Backstreet Boys) are two more gems on this third album that are as emotional and honest as any classic country song. “Heatwave” closes out the album, giving it a very sizzling, seductive ambiance that leaves a lasting effect long after the song ends. From beginning to end, Florida Georgia Line have created an album that is both lyrically and musically more ripe and thought-provoking than either of their previous albums. That’s not to take anything away from Here’s to the Good Times and Anything Goes, though. Both albums were fantastic and highly successful. This third album, though, takes the duo’s talent to a new level.
While there are plenty of critics and fans that will complain Dig Your Roots isn’t country, and has too much of a pop and R&B feel to it, I stand against them. I think Dig Your Roots is a progressive step forward for Hubbard and BK. They don’t lose their traditional sound that brought them their success, but they don’t cling to it either. They weren’t afraid to branch out on this album and explore their other musical influences. Tyler and Kelley seamlessly blend their traditional country roots with today’s trending pop and R&B sound, and in the process have created a solid album that can and should appeal to fans of both genres on multiple levels. Musically people may not see this as a “real” country album, but lyrically there’s no denying just how deep FGL’s roots run.