“This project was going to be a tribute album to my favorite songwriters and artists, but it transformed into more than that.” This is how Billy Ray Cyrus describes his latest album, Thin Line, which makes its debut two weeks from today on September 9th. In addition to paying tribute to those who influence the music he makes, several of Cyrus’ family members and friends contribute to Thin Line. His children, Miley and Braison, both make appearances on the album, as well as Shelby Lynne, Shooter Jennings, and even legendary guitarist Joe Perry.
Listening to the album, you’ll certainly pick up on the heroes Cyrus looks up to and draws inspiration from. “Stop Pickin’ On Willie” made its original debut nearly 20 years ago, when Cyrus performed it alongside Willie Nelson at the 1997 Farm Aid concert. The tune honors Nelson and the good he did, co-organizing the original Farm Aid benefit concert and continuing to participate in the event which celebrated its 30th year in 2015.
Covers of Merle Haggard’s “Going Where The Lonely Go” (featuring Cyrus’ son Braison) and Don Williams’ “Tulsa Time” (with Joe Perry accompanying on guitar) also honor country music legends that shaped Cyrus’ career. “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” plays along the same lines, making no mistake of where Cyrus draws his inspiration.
Shooter Jennings joins Cyrus on two of Thin Line‘s tracks. On “Killing The Blues” the duo harmonize and compliment each other well, in addition to having a few standout moments individually. The other track the two collaborated on, “I’ve Always Been Crazy”, also brings Lee Roy Parnell into the mix. The song has an edgy, outlaw feel throughout and might leave you imagining gun battles in the Old West.
The album also offers up plenty of tracks in the love department. “They’re Playin’ Our Song”, a track abound with romantic lyrics, also provides a bit of a power ballad feel, particularly with the guitar runs as the song draws to a close. “Lovin’ Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” is, as the title would suggest, an anthem about having and appreciating a long-term love.
Thin Line‘s title was certainly no accident – accord to Cyrus, the name is a metaphor for “How I live my life; it’s a balance between art and reality.” The edginess, the romance, the tributes to his heroes all play a part in that balance on this album. “Hope (Let It Find You)” and the title track “Thin Line” add to that balance, as well. Their inspiring lyrics talk about real life, the struggles we all face on a daily basis and overcoming them.
While many of Thin Line’s tracks are more understated than flashy, Cyrus still finds a place for the good time music he’s known for. “Hillbilly On” will likely be a hit at Cyrus’ live shows, one of those songs you can just picture an audience relating to with enthusiasm. “Hey Elvis” is a fun track and keeps pace with another project Cyrus is currently busy with. In addition to to recording and releasing Thin Line, Cyrus has been staring in CMT’s “Still The King”, a television series about a one-hit wonder who has since become an Elvis impersonator. A drunk driving incident leads to Cyrus’ character “Burnin'” Vernon Brown being sentenced to community service. In an effort to reconnect with the teenage daughter he didn’t know he had, Brown pretends to be the town’s new minister to raise money for child support payments. The comedy series recently got picked up for a second season, expected in 2017.
It’s clear that Cyrus is a busy man and as the release of Thin Line approaches, we can’t imagine his schedule slowing down. You can pre-order the album here and have instant access to “Hey Elvis”, “Tulsa Time”, “Hillbilly On” and “Thin Line”. Grab yourself a copy and then catch up with “Still The King” on CMT, every Sunday at 9pm ET/PT.