No Fences – Garth Brooks – 1990
Claimed Sales: 17m
First listen?: Yes
Format Listened?: Amazon Music
One of the artists who was bound to appear on a bestsellers list once I expanded out of just the UK charts, Garth Brooks is definitively the biggest selling country act of all time and in fact is second only to The Beatles in total album sales in the United States. There’s nothing that complicated or difficult to understand about the success of Garth Brooks, where second album No Fences stands as his biggest success. Accessible pop-leaning country about good old fashioned American past-times like rodeos, drinking beer, praying to god and falling for cute country girls; to anyone who has ever listened to a country song before No Fences is massively predictable. Of course this is part of the point, and why artists like Garth Brooks are SO popular. Wild Horses is full of twangy guitar and violin, while Mr. Blue is a honky tonk ditty that’s a barn away from a line dance. Friends In Low Places might just be the very first Bro-Country song and you can almost hear a young Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean singing along and deciding they want to be country singers. The influence of songs like this and of highlight barnstomer Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House can’t be overstated, marking a true crossover for the genre into catchy pop hooks. Opener The Thunder Rolls is the obvious high point of the record, where it stands as the only moment that the production doesn’t feel cheap, it’s by far the best song here musically. Of course it wouldn’t be a country record without a few ballads and it’s probably these that suit Brooks the best, especially the likes of New Way To Fly which features his strongest vocal performance here. Unanswered Prayers is less of a highlight, while the production on Same Old Story makes it sound like a Whitney song. No Fences is hardly a revolution, in fact it sounds incredibly dated, even for the start of the 90s. Country music was decades behind the rest of the industry and the fact that No Fences became such a huge commercial hit all but transformed the genre in its homeland. He’s a likeable star though, with a good voice and a charming delivery, so even if the album just floats by without many true standout moments there’s at least something to enjoy.
Will I listen again?: Probably not.
Best Track: The Thunder Rolls is dramatic and doesn’t sound anywhere near as dated as the rest of the songs here.