The Metro-Bro era may be rising from the dead, but don’t sleep on the 90s-era neotraditional revival either.
Dillon Carmichael is a Kentucky native with a strong family connection to the music business: His uncles just happen to be noted country artists John Michael and Eddie Montgomery (and the connection with the latter is apparent the moment Carmichael opens his mouth). He signed with Riser House Records back in 2017 and released his debut album Hell On An Angel in 2018, but hadn’t found any traction on the airwaves until recently, as his new song and presumed leadoff single for his eventual sophomore album “I Do For You” now sits just outside the Mediabase Top 50. Basically, Carmichael takes Riley Green’s approach from “There Was This Girl” and doubles down on it: This is a fiddle-and-steel ode to how a significant other can change someone’s behavior and attitude, and it’s a surprisingly fun song to listen to.
Where Jon Pardi’s “Heartache Medication” felt like a modern update of the neotraditional sound, the production here feels more like something you would have heard on the dial in 1995. The electric guitars have a bit more body and presence, the fiddle and steel are plentiful without feeling forced, and the whole mix has a less-clean finish to it that betters mimics those 25-year-old recordings (as a side note, I feel really old saying that). The percussion has some extra punch to as it as well, and while it’s not as neoteraditional as the rest of the arrangement, the drums do a nice job pushing the song forward and maintaining both the tempo and the energy level. The overall vibe here is relentlessly positive, driving home the fact that while there are a lot of things they doesn’t want to do, they will not only gladly do them for their significant other, but they’ll enjoy them too. It’s the sort of warm, celebratory atmosphere that sits squarely in 90s country’s love-story wheelhouse, and it not only suits the mood perfectly, but also sharply distinguishes the tracks from even its classically-nodding peers.
If you didn’t know Carmichael was related to Eddie Montgomery, you’ll figure it out within the first line or two, because vocally Carmichael is a dead ringer for his uncle. (This is good because Montgomery was a decent singer in his own right, but bad because it reminds you that we lost Troy Gentry way too soon.) That sound and lineage gives Carmichael a unique credibility when delivering his lines: When he proclaims that “I don’t do weddings and I don’t do dishes,” he’s got so much natural gruff and attitude in his delivery you can’t help but believe him. On the flip side, when he makes his face turn and proclaims that he would do any of said things for his partner, he shows enough earnestness and heart that you can’t help but believe him here either. From a technical perspective, he demonstrates enough range and flow to keep the track moving and stay in character, and seems to stay squarely in his comfort zone for the entire track. It’s an impressive performance overall, and one that entices me to dig into his discography a bit deeper.
I’m a big fan of the lyrics here, because they do a great job capturing the classic country outlaw in their transition from wayward rabble-rouser to doting, open-minded partner. The voice and personality behind the writing absolutely nails the old-school gruff reluctance to things like malls, weddings, and leaf-peeping that describes at least half my extended family, as well as the unexpected transition of these chores to enjoyable activities simply by adding another person to the picture. (My brother never liked bathroom candles either, but after several years of marriage he’s got a whole shelfful of them, and like any thoughtful sibling I never miss an opportunity to needle him about that.) The details here are sharp, vivid, and even occasionally novel (I don’t know if I’ve ever heard leaf-peeping referenced in a song before), and the progression of the story draws a clear line from obstinate (yet still oddly relatable) single to responsible human being to devoted husband. There’s a real maturity to the lyrics that you don’t see in songs like, say, Sam Hunt’s “Kinfolks” or Dan + Shay + Justin Bieber’s “10,000 Hours,” and it strikes a nice balance between the rebellious and reverent sides of the speaker.
I have to admit, I liked Dillon Carmichael’s “I Do For You” a lot more than I expected to. Its avoids the sappy and/or sleazy tropes that are getting thrown all over Nashville these days, and with classic production, solid writing, and a throwback vocal performance from Carmichael, it delivers a thoughtful, optimistic take on love while giving us just enough of a taste of attitude to make the whole thing feel real. Eddie Montgomery stuck around mainstream country music for quite some time back in the day, and if Carmichael is going to keep putting out songs like this one, I wouldn’t mind seeing him do the same.
Rating: 7/10. Give this one your full attention—you won’t regret it.