As one of modern country music’s most revered practitioners, it would seem that, at this point in his career, Vince Gill can do no wrong. Projecting both a sound and personality that’s unapologetically amiable and affable, he makes music that resonates well with those who enjoy the riches of Nashville’s music machine as well as those whose tastes run to the fringes of Americana.
With that in mind, it’s somewhat surprising – mildly frustrating even – that he chooses to play it so safe. He is a commercial commodity after all. While Down To My Last Bad Habit is more than competent and often quite satisfying, it also falls short in terms of qualities needed to make it a masterpiece.
There’s a preponderance of tender, emotionally wrought ballads (the title track, “Like My Daddy Did,” “I Can’t Do This,” “One More Mistake I Made,” “I’ll Be Waiting For You”) as well as a number of punchy, mid-tempo tunes that would likely find a good fit on a mid-career Eagles album (“Reasons For The Tears I Cry,” “Take Me Down,” “When It’s Love”). But, as a whole, the album seems to suggest that Gill’s put his music on autopilot for the sake of finding common ground.
Indeed, radio will likely soak it up, as much for Gill’s star stature as for these songs' easily engaging melodies. But while Gill’s heartfelt sentiments are genuinely affecting – songs about lost love and tender memories genuinely are – he offers no new takes on those sentiments, no new insights that haven’t been reached already.
Down to My Last Bad Habit isn’t an album that’s easily criticized. Its songs are solid, its production is flawless and Gill’s vocals are as assured as ever. But it’s not one that finds him breaking a sweat, much less exceeding expectations. There’s a wide expanse between good and great, and the disappointment lies in the fact that Gill settles for the former without striving for the latter.