Southern rock is reborn in All Eyes on You, the latest album from up and coming country star Nathan King, and while it’s admittedly as addictive as any of the biggest hits in mainstream pop at the moment, it’s anything but an exercise in artificial artistry. King bears everything to us in the title track, “Just One Night,” the brilliantly experimental “I Don’t Drink Like I Used To” and the magnetizing “Teal,” but he’s careful to avoid self-centered lyricism in his powerful pastoral poetry. With enough swing to shift the attention away from anything coming from the Nashville establishment this spring, All Eyes on You is unquestionably a homerun for this deeply gifted singer/songwriter.

Old school twang meets ultra-metallic riffing in the opening cut “No Stopping Us Now,” as well as the emotive “Outskirts In” and the heavy rocking “Run It Down,” but we never feel like we’re listening to an indulgent hybridity (as has been the case with so many of the alt-country records I’ve listened to this month). King flirts with heavy metal in “Redneck,” folky Americana in “Teal,” and even melodic hip-hop beats in “Last First Kiss” and “Just One Night,” and as eccentrically faceted as the material gets, it somehow manages to play out with remarkable fluidity, almost like what I would expect out of a concept album.

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Even in the slower songs like “Just One Night,” the intimate ballad “425” and “Teal,” Nathan King is bringing a lot of energy and adrenaline into the booth with him, and his passion for the music is reflected in his incredibly smooth execution of the verses. The lyrics in “Outskirts In” have a freewheeling quality about them that makes the words feel really surreal, while the title track feels like a look inside of an extended jam comprised of three different songs merged into a single medley. It’s an ambitiously structured LP for sure, but it doesn’t translate as pretentious in nature in the least.

All Eyes on You is by far the most diverse country record that I’ve had heard in 2019. Where Roses and Cigarettes’ Echoes and Silence shook me to my core with its haunting harmonies and smart lyrical bite, All Eyes on You is all about its righteous rhythm, which is infectious even at its most stoic and contained. Cursory examinations of “Run It Down” and “Just One Night” captured my heart, but deeper inspections yielded a tremendous amount of respect for Nathan King as a singer, and moreover, a songwriter.

Featuring the perfect combination of brooding ballads and raucous riff rocking grooves, All Eyes on You is a stellar breakthrough moment for King, and in my opinion, a strong contender for the best country record of 2019. Right out of the gate with “No Stopping Us Now,” he’s dispatching one gripping melody after another, flaunting his prowess and demonstrating how much he’s grown since his debut. Nashville has been producing a lot of mixed results as of late, but on the underground side of the spectrum, artists like Nathan King are changing the game and keeping the undying spirit of American country music alive and well.

Sebastian Cole