Er kam in Neuseeland zur Welt, wuchs in Australien auf, und krempelte danach die Musikszene in Nashville um. Kaum einer hat den gegenwärtigen Country mehr definiert als der Singer-Songwriter und Gitarrist Keith Urban. Mit einem erstaunlichen musikalischen Background verbindet der 47-Jährige in seiner Musik die Smartness von Top-40-Pop mit der Ehrlichkeit von Country und der Virtuosität von Rockgitarristen wie Mark Knopfler und Eric Clapton.
Man wundert sich manchmal fast darüber, dass Nicole Kidmans Ehemann eine der größten Celebrities der heutigen Popszene ist. Seit Jahren sitzt er im Panel der TV-Castingshow American Idol. Denn Urbans Songs schlagen mit ihrer Sehnsucht, Ungebundenheit und Weite in die Kerbe Jack Johnsons und anderer Individualisten. Man erkennt sie sofort. Sie sind eigen und originell, die Storys ungewöhnlich, die Lebensweisheiten gegen den Strich, und sie erreichen die anspruchsvolleren Country- und Pop-Fans. Den Sound seiner 2014 veröffentlichten Single "Cop Car" verglich ein Musikjournalist mit U2s "Achtung Baby" – doch die Melodie des Songs ist einwandfrei Country. Egal wie gut der blonde Sonnyboy aussieht, wie oft die Regebogenpresse über Kidman und ihn berichtet - es ist zu 90% Urbans Musik, die seine 24-jährige Karriere so geradlinig gemacht hat.
Als Sechsjähriger begann Keith Urban Gitarre zu lernen. Sein Vater hatte einen Gemischtwarenladen in der kleinen Küstenstadt Caboolture. Dafür, dass ein örtlicher Gitarrenlehrer dort ein Werbeposter aufhängen durfte, musste er Keith Stunden geben, der früh großes Talent zeigte und schon als Grundschüler bei Talentwettbewerben gewann. Sein Vater war Country-Fan. Seine Plattensammlung, mit LPs von Glen Campbell, Dolly Parton, Don Williams und Jimmy Webb, färbte auf Keith ab. Als er in den späteren 1970ern die Musik von Dire Straits entdeckte, studierte Urban den Gitarrenstil Mark Knopflers bis ins Detail.
1989 unterschrieb Urban in Australien einen Plattenvertrag bei der EMI, die 1991 sein erstes, nach ihm benanntes Debütalbum veröffentlichte. Auch wenn daraus verschiedene Singles in den australischen Charts landeten, richtete Urban den Blick nach Nashville – dem Heimatort, der Musik, die er liebte. Gemeinsam mit einem Musikerkumpel zog er in die Music City und gründete dort die Band The Ranch. Mit ihrem rauen, rock-and-rolligen Sound erinnerten sie mehr an australischen Pubrock als an Country, nichtsdestotrotz bekamen sie einen Deal bei Capitol Nashville. Miles Copeland, der Ex-Manager von The Police, nahm sie unter seine Fittiche.
The Ranch schlugen keine wirklich großen Wellen, als sie 1997 ihr einziges Album herausbrachten. Urban machte kurz danach als Sänger eine Zwangspause aus gesundheitlichen Gründen und war in dieser Zeit in Nashville aktiv als Studiogitarrist für Garth Brooks und die Dixie Chicks. Der Top-Produzent Matt Rollings engagierte ihn ebenfalls, und ihre Begegnung stellte eine Weiche in Urbans Karriere, weil Rollings das erste amerikanische Solo-Album Urbans produzierte, mit dem er in den USA zum Shooting-Star wurde. 1999 veröffentlicht, brachte Keith Urban den Song "But for the Grace of God" auf Platz-1 der US-Countrycharts. Urban spielte umgehend im Vorprogramm der Tourneen von Stars wie Dwight Yoakam, Faith Hill und Tim McGraw. Den Karrieregipfel erreichte Urban 2004 mit seinem fünften, dem Smash-Album Be Here, das sich Abermillionen Male in Nordamerika und Australien verkauft hat. Platinverkäufe erzielten auch die Nachfolgerv Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing, "Defying Gravity" und "Get Closer".
2012 – inmitten der Aufnahmen zu seinen jüngsten Album "Fuse" – nahm die traditionsreiche Country-Radio-Show Grand Ole Opry Urban als Mitglied auf und er wurde Juror bei American Idol. Zu "Fuse" sagte Urban dem Rolling Stone, er habe wissen wollen, wie weit er auf einem Album gehen könnte, bevor es nicht mehr nach ihm klinge. Die Antwort ist: weit. Denn Urban kann die unterschiedlichsten Sounds und Spielarten wie Country klingen lassen. Gemeinsam mit so unterschiedlichen Produzenten wie Nathan Chapman, Butch Walker (Fall Out Boy) und dem norwegischen Stargate-Team hat er die Palette um Funk und Hip Hop erweitert. I-Tüpfelchen setzen seine Duettpartner Miranda Lambert und Eric Church. "Die Sterne standen richtig und es war Zeit zu experimentieren, ich war bereit zu dieser Reise, wollte bei den Songs nicht in Kategorien denken, sondern diese Songs ehren und sie das sein lassen, was sie sein wollten", sagte Urban.
2014 wählten ihn die Zuschauer des Country-TV-Senders CMT zum "Künstler des Jahres". Urban nutzte seine Dankesrede, um seiner Frau eine Liebeserklärung zu machen: "Ich denke nicht, dass diese Dinge zufällig passieren", zitierten die Gala und andere Medien. "Was ich tue, hat jetzt einen echten Sinn und ich mache das alles für dich und die Mädchen." Im Publikum sitzend, zeigte Kidman sich gerührt von seinen Worten.
Technically, the Ranch was a country trio consisting of Peter Clarke, Jerry Flowers, and future superstar Keith Urban. In practice, though, it was a group of equals to the same extent as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, which is to say, it wasn't a group of equals at all. Clarke provides drums and percussion on this debut album, Flowers plays bass, and Urban does everything else. That means singing lead vocals, playing a variety of stringed instruments, handling keyboards, and co-writing nine of the album's 12 songs. The album is essentially a showcase for Urban, the up-and-coming Aussie performer who left his homeland, moved to Nashville, and would eventually become one of the city's biggest stars. Urban is a triple threat here: he writes songs steeped in country traditions (but avoids music that's purely traditionalist), sings them with confidence, and, most impressively, picks a guitar authoritatively. His pop/country/rock sound occasionally recalls the 1980s style of Rodney Crowell, particularly on one of the songs he didn't write, "Just Some Love." His is an approach that takes the history of country into consideration while also looking forward. He may plead "Hank Don't Fail Me Now" in one song title, but he never really sounds like Hank Williams. He sounds modern instead, and the album reveals a broad, budding talent not far from fully flowering. Not surprisingly, after the commercial failure of this release, the Ranch broke up and Urban went solo, breaking through to success shortly after.
Words: William Ruhlmann
Keith Urban's solo debut for American audiences (released after the breakup of his former group, the Ranch) may seem a bit quaint now that he's become a superstar. But back in 1997 when this album was released, Urban looked like a fresh-faced kid who was entering the U.S. market as a virtual unknown. Truth is, he made his recording debut in his native Australia in 1991, and had been on the radar of Nashville's A&R men for years. This album proves why. There are four Urban originals here, each one showcasing his knack for writing in numerous styles that all fit into the expanding country radio format. He could marry a rock tune or pop ballad to a country melody, set it off with just the right amount of heartfelt emotion, and lace it with appropriate production, whether it be playing the banjo or adding strings to the mix. He and co-producer Matt Rollings also selected a mostly winning combination of tunes to fill the remainder of the disc, including Monty Powell's fiddle drenched barnstormer "It's a Love Thing," Charlotte Caffey's mid-tempo ballad "But for the Grace of God," and "Rollercoaster," which marked Urban's first signal towards the contemporary country community that he wasn't just a pretty face who could sing. The track is a guitar scorcher from top to bottom, with Urban playing guitar like he was Randy Scruggs' younger brother, flat picking his Stratocaster like it was another extremity he was born with. This and other such moments balance the slick and sometimes too-soft production on the record; as such, the album marks the true root of his sound as a major artist wetting his feet.
Words: Thom Jurek
Keith Urban's second release for Capitol Records is an early yet devastatingly original piece of work that pointed the way toward his later albums, and it proves him partially responsible for the diverse musical traditions that made their way into the contemporary country scene during the 21st century. While others like Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, and Travis Tritt modeled a sound that included Southern and '70s rock, Urban brought bluegrass, Top 40 pop stylings, and drum loops into the mix, and made them all work in his own songs as well as those he covered. Produced by Urban and Dan Huff, Golden Road is the first place listeners really get to hear the monster guitar slash-and-burn that's so prevalent in his live performances. The album contains two Urban originals in the beautiful, lithe ballad "You're Not Alone Tonight" and the shuffling soft rocker "Song for Dad," both of which showcase the blend of sounds he would later employ as his own trademark mix. The set also contains a pair of excellent cuts by Rodney Crowell, which are particularly suitable, and perhaps were even tailor-made for Urban in "You Won" and "What About Me." The ballad "Raining on Sunday" was originally written by Darrell Brown, as was the other single "You'll Think of Me." Tony Martin's "You Look Good in My Shirt" is a delightfully stinging rocker, and Monty Powell's "Who Wouldn't Want to Be Me" is another, with Urban playing the strings off his banjo as well as electric guitar. Although his later records were bigger hits, this one is consistent enough -- and full of such charm and personality -- that it's difficult to believe Urban didn't write everything here. That he owns these songs as if he did write them makes Golden Road a lasting early achievement.
Words: Thom Jurek
Keith Urban has been a consistent presence in the country charts since 2000, scoring eight consecutive entries as of the release of his third U.S. solo album, Be Here (the eighth being this disc's leadoff track, "Days Go By"). And there's plenty more where that came from. Unlike most other country artists, Urban doesn't restrict his albums to ten selections from the Nashville songwriting establishment. This one contains 13 songs at a generous 55-minute running time, and Urban's name is on nine of them as a co-writer. Thus, the collection can be viewed as more of a singer/songwriter effort than the usual Music City product. From that point of view, the album has a distinct storytelling arc, beginning with the carpe diem sentiments of "Days Go By" and continuing into a series of songs that celebrate life and love, notably Rodney Crowell's unabashedly romantic "Making Memories of Us," which finds Urban doing his best Crowell imitation. Suggestions of struggle begin to intrude as of "God's Been Good to Me," however -- and after seven songs, Urban abruptly changes the sound and the mood with a piano-and-strings weeper, "Tonight I Wanna Cry." "She's Gotta Be" picks up the pace, if not the mood, and Matraca Berg and Jim Collins' "Nobody Drinks Alone" brings the singer to a sodden rock bottom before he changes the subject by covering Elton John's "Country Comfort" and finally overcomes adversity in "Live to Love Another Day," then rewrites the album's opening song to look forward again on the album-closing "These Are the Days." The album-length story of optimism and perseverance in the face of romantic turmoil and alcoholic temptation is told musically with Urban's usual collection of fast-picked string instruments, including electric and acoustic guitars, banjo, mandolin, and Dobro (the last played by Bruce Bouton). It's a muscular sound indebted at least as much to rock and bluegrass as to traditional country, but it supports his light, flexible tenor and his essentially upbeat message.
Words: William Ruhlmann
A New Zealand-born songwriter who moved to America during the 1990s, Keith Urban established a base for himself in Nashville a decade or so before this release, and while he certainly draws from country's long tradition in his music, he also infuses it with a healthy dose of good ol' rock & roll attitude. This isn't anything new in Nashville, mind you, but Urban also happens to be one heck of a guitar player, and his seemingly boundless enthusiasm for the job means his version of rocking country doesn't sound like a studied hybrid, but instead appears as effortless and natural as the wind blowing down a freeway. Add to this Urban's refreshing optimism, and songs like "Days Go By," "Somebody Like You," and "Better Life" explode out of the speakers like joyous new beginnings. Days Go By is a European compilation that combines most of the tracks from 2004's Be Here with a few from 2002's Golden Road, creating what amounts to an introductory anthology of Urban's early work for Capitol Records.
Words: Steve Leggett
Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing was released on November 7, 2006, just days after Keith Urban voluntarily entered an alcohol treatment center. Having married actress Nicole Kidman just months before, his timing couldn't be better. After all, Urban is trying to get well at the very peak of his life thus far, both personally and professionally, and an album this enjoyable needs a healthy person to support it. Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing is slicker than anything Urban has issued before, but it's also more ambitious, representing a giant leap forward from 2004's Be Here. Urban is a rocking guitarist, a complete wildman on the electric six-string, and he combines his tough, unhinged approach to the instrument with pop melodies and utterly brilliant production elements that layer strings, drum loops, fiddles, banjos, E-Bows, and Hammond B-3s. Add a songwriting style that touches on the classic elements of rock, country, and mainstream pop, and you have something that hasn't been heard in the country genre in such a cohesive way before. That's right -- the album is further proof of Urban's ability to stretch the genre to the breaking point by bringing in more of modern pop's elements, while remaining firmly within Nashville's good graces.
Song by song, this albums feels as if there isn't anything he can't do. Sharing production credit with Dan Huff, Urban wrote (or, in some cases, co-wrote) ten of the album's 13 cuts -- there's a hidden track buried in the CD-ROM portion of the disc. The production is thoroughly modern, but also feels like the country equivalent of George Martin. It's positively baroque in places, and there is so much packed in that it almost feels claustrophobic, even though he makes it work beautifully. No record since Neil Diamond's brilliant Beautiful Noise -- produced by the Band's Robbie Robertson -- has sounded so regal and inviting. The album's first single, "Once in a Lifetime," opens the set; it entered the Billboard chart at number 17, the highest debuting single since the chart's inception. But the shock is simply that it's not the best track on the record. Urban has packed this disc with fine writing and excellent, even defining versions of the songs he chose to cover. There are a number of rockers, including "Faster Car," with its smoking, funky bassline, layered power chords, and his "ganjo" that rings above the horn section, and "I Told You So," which uses acoustic guitars, fiddles, and the ganjo to usher in some twisting, minor-key electrics. Both songs are based on tight little hooks, and both build to the breaking point while allowing Urban's voice to soar above the instruments. On the latter tune, Uilleann pipes and bouzouki are layered into the mix in a melody that brings to bear Celtic cowboy lyric frames and tribal rhythms. The whole thing explodes near the end, when Urban cuts loose in a serious, distortion-laden guitar wrangle.
"Shine," which begins as a shimmering country-pop tune, is another example, as a string section and his unhinged soloing battle for dominance in the nearly unbearable climax. "I Can't Stop Loving You," written by Billy Nichols, is another climatic tune, but it becomes one of the great modern country love songs with its incessant reaching to its crescendo, which is provided by an army of strings and big power chords. "Used to the Pain," written with Darrell Brown, is a stealthy rocking love song that drips with emotion. The down-home anthem "Raise the Barn," a duet with Ronnie Dunn, was written in reaction to the destruction done by Hurricane Katrina. Urban can also write a shuffling country-rocker with the best of them. Urban didn't pen "God Made Woman," but his version makes the track his own. Beginning with a choir (somewhat smaller and yet reminiscent of the Rolling Stones on "You Can't Always Get What You Want"), the cut quickly becomes a loud and proud country-rock anthem that celebrates -- not objectifies -- women. "Tu Compañía" is a way funky country two-step love song driven by the ganjo. Yeah. Funky. The album's final cut, "Got It Right This Time," sounds like a homemade demo by the rest of the album's standards, with Urban handling drum machine and keyboard chores while singing. That said, it's far from substandard and certainly belongs here, as it showcases Urban's voice in all its unadorned grandeur and reveals the influence of soul music on his singing.
Those who wish to decry Urban as some kind of slick, formulaic songwriter and flavor of the country music moment are missing the point. The man writes honest, beautifully crafted songs that are adult enough to ponder, tough enough to rock, and tender enough to pull -- not tug -- on the heartstrings. As previously stated, there's no better time to get well than when you're at the top of your game. While Urban's previous records have all had their moments -- and Be Here was his true arrival -- Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing is his mature pop masterpiece. For all its wonder and expertise, it feels like it's just a taste of what he'll be offering in the future.
Words: Thom Jurek
18 Kids is a beautiful work of art 8 years in the making.
The album kicks off with a casual cover of Steve Forbert's Romeo's Tune. This extremely catchy rhythm features a piano, one of the many instruments Urban can play. The second track is a remake of one of the songs off of his Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy Thing album, Got It Right This Time (The Celebration). This is my personal favorite on the entire album. He took this simple song and transformed it into just what the title indicates, a celebration. It starts out with just a keyboard, a drum machine, and vocals. Then electric guitar, percussion, and background vocals for harmony eventually join in. As each part comes in and adds to the song, it gradually builds up leading to a huge explosion of melody. The joy and happiness that this song is about is portrayed perfectly through the music, making it an instant hit and one of the best tracks on the album.
The next 16 tracks are a nice mix of billboard chart toppers. The entire album touches on a wide range of emotions. Listen to mind blowing guitar solos as in Stupid Boy, the soothing sound of solo piano in Tonight I Wanna Cry, a Celtic sounding I Told You So, the love ballad Making Memories Of Us, country-rock themes such as Days Go By, Somebody Like You, and Better Life, progressive rolling upbeat numbers such as Where The Blacktop Ends and Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Me, and more!
As if this wasn't reason enough to love this album, the album case itself is quite a treat. The insert booklet is full of colorful photos of Keith, including all the covers of his albums and a few from his adolescence while the back of the booklet includes a personal message from him. Instead of the usual jewel case, the CD comes in a paper board cover that folds open to reveal some amazing photos of the entertainer taken from his latest tour. The paper board is at least 30% recycled material to help preserve the environment!
Overall, this album is superb! The lyrics of these songs are so simple yet they strike so deeply with many people. The passion that Keith Urban puts into his music really shows.
Words: Daniel Erhart