Seine Heimatstadt Leesburg in Georgia liege 100 Meilen nördlich der Grenze zu Florida, 100 Meilen östlich von Alabama und hinter dem Mond, kommentierte er einmal. Neben der Schule half Bryan auf der Erdnuss-Farm seiner Eltern. Mit 14 bekam er die erste Gitarre. Country-Musik wurde seine Obsession. Schon bald wurde Bryan in der lokalen Musikszene bekannt und schrieb erste Songs. Nach der Highschool packte er die Koffer, um nach Nashville zu ziehen. Am Vorabend seiner Abreise starb sein Bruder bei einem Autounfall, und Bryan wollte so nicht weggehen. Er ging in Georgia aufs College und trat nebenbei mit seiner Band in der Gegend auf. Sein Vater glaubte indes an Bryans Talent und drängte ihn dazu, seinem Herzenswunsch zu folgen.
2001 zog Bryan in die Music City, wo er relativ schnell anknüpfen konnte und als Songwriter startete. Mit Travis Tritts "Honky Tonk History" verbreitete sich sein Ruf. 2004 unterschrieb er einen Plattenvertrag bei Capitol Records Nashville, arbeitete jedoch weiter als Songwriter für andere, wie Billy Currington, dessen Hit "Good Directions" er co-komponierte.
Erst 2007 erschien Bryans Debütsingle "All My Friends Say". Der Song handelt von einem Typen, der morgens aufwacht und sich nicht mehr an den Vorabend erinnern kann, darauf seine Freunde anruft, die ihm sagen, er habe sich die Kante gegeben, nachdem er in der Bar seine Ex mit einem neuen Lover sah. "All My Friends Say" hielt sich monatelang in den Country- und Popcharts und erschien auf der Hit-Kopplung "Now That´s What I Call Country".
Sein im selben Jahr veröffentlichtes Debütalbum I´ll Stay Me hat ein ländliches Feeling. Mit Südstaaten-Akzent betont Bryan seine Herkunft, weitgehend akustisch instrumentiert mit Mandoline, Geige und Gitarren. Auch die zweite Single "Country Man" zog in die Top-10 ein. Bryan galt als Hoffnungsträger für den traditionellen Country.
Das zweite Album Doin´ My Thing brachte seine Karriere weiter aufwärts. Die Singles "Rain Is A Good Thing" und "Someone Else Is Calling You Baby" erreichten Platz 1 der Country-Charts. Mittlerweile hat das Album Platin-Status in den USA.
Der große Karriere-Knall kam mit seinem dritten Album Tailgates and Tanlines, auf dem Bryan acht der dreizehn Songs schrieb, gemeinsam mit gefeierten Größen wie Rhett Atkins, Dallas Davidson und Shane MacAnally. Die Leadsingle "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)" lief rauf und runter im Country- und im Pop-Radio. Für viele junge Country-Fans war das Album der Soundtrack des Sommers 2011.
Mit seinem vierten Album Crash My Party crashte Bryan 2013 und 2014 die US-amerikanischen Hitlisten. Es katapultierte vier Singles auf Platz 1 der Country-Airplay-Charts. An einem Tag setzte sich Crash My Party über 120.000 Mal im iTunes-Store ab und wurde zum Jahresende die Nummer 3 der Albumbestseller 2013 in den USA. Ein vergleichbarer Durchbruch war einem männlichen Country-Sänger das letzte Mal vor neun Jahren gelungen (Tim McGraw mit "Live Like You Were Dying"). "Nur Taylor Swift könnte da aktuell noch mithalten", kommentierte das Branchen-Medium Billboard.
Seine seit 2009 jeweils im März erschienen Spring Break-EPs machten Bryan zum Zeremonienmeister der Frühjahrs-Spaßperiode an amerikanischen Highschools und Colleges – worüber mancher Country-Traditionalist die Nase rümpfen mag. Wie dem auch sei. Bryan hat seinen festen Platz in der jungen Country-Generation. Die aktuelle Rolle des Partykönigs wird ihm sicher bald nicht mehr reichen.
Luke Bryan's debut album for Capitol Nashville is about as country as the music gets these days. Rather than borrow form Tim McGraw or Big & Rich, he takes his inspiration from more timeless and perhaps timeworn carriers of the Nash Vegas tradition like Randy Travis and Alan Jackson. Bryan's also a songwriter in the best sense of the word, especially when it comes to sticking close and true to the topical side of country music, from mama and praying to food and love (and its loss) to individuality and trucks. The set contains 11 tracks, ten of which were written or co-written by Bryan. While structurally and topically Bryan is in the mainline of honky tonk tradition, the sound of the album, thanks to producer Jeff Stevens, is pure contemporary country circa the early 21st century. It borrows heavily from rock & roll technique, in the chorus vocals and the Hammond B-3 organ to the big, compressed drum sounds. Fiddles, pedal steels and honky tonk upright pianos are everywhere, but they are layered underneath big guitar sounds, reverbed vocals, and sometimes cavernous drums. It's the stress between the expertly composed material and the sonic ground that gives the album its enormous potential. Whether it's an up-tempo love song like "Baby's on the Way," with its double entendre and ringing 12-string electric guitars, the novelty jealous hillbilly rocker of "All of My Friends Say," the line dance swagger of "Country Man," the anthemic nostalgia song "We Rode in Trucks," or most any cut here, this disc is deep in singles -- and potential videos. Despite the calculating, swing for the fences nature of Bryan's debut, he is genuinely gifted, and executes nearly flawlessly. This record will sound just fine five or ten years from now (if a little cheesy for the production nuances), which is a lot more than one can say for some of his contemporaries. Bryan is a singer and songwriter to watch as a recording artist.
Words: Thom Jurek
On his second album, Luke Bryan's thing is decidedly lighter and relaxed than it was on his 2007 debut, I'll Stay Me, with the uptempo songs veering toward funny odes to good times and the slower songs flirting with crossover power ballads. Tellingly, whatever disharmony there is between these two extremes -- lamenting that country is not a pristine John Deere cap nor mall-bought rebel flag, then singing a cover of OneRepublic's "Apologize," which brings him way too close to that very mall -- comes from outside writers chosen to give Bryan a crossover hit that he very well may get on his own terms based on the strength of the eight tunes he co-wrote here. Bryan never pushes his good-old boy or romantic sides too hard, sounding equally convincing when he's singing about "Drinkin' Beer and Wastin' Bullets," or when he's wooing a lover on "Do I." This light, easy touch helps sell those occasional contrived moments, but it's better showcased on his originals, where he seems like the good-hearted, slightly mischievous, boy next door who never wants to get goofy like Big & Rich or go to the Caribbean like Kenny Chesney; he only wants to stick around his home town and sing songs...and there's plenty of charm in that attitude, as evidenced by this ingratiating sophomore effort.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The third time around, Luke Bryan doubles down on his calling card: his inherent sweetness, the warmth he has as the country boy next door. Bryan is so genial that when he implores his country girl to “shake it for me,” there’s nary a trace of lasciviousness: he just wants to be sure she’s having a good time. This aw-shucks generosity resonates throughout Tailgates & Tanlines, a record that capitalizes on the relaxed professionalism of 2009’s Doin’ My Thing. Bryan’s bright setting plays as pop -- it’s too clean and crisp, too bereft of grit to ever be mistaken as something hardcore -- but his foundation is pure country, songs that are sturdy and unfussy, never bothering with sugary pop hooks. This is a slight shift from Doin’ My Thing, which was pop enough to have a OneRepublic cover fit within the context, but Bryan retains the shiny friendliness of his sophomore set and marries it to songs that are strictly country, whether they’re a lazy Sunday stroll like “Too Damn Young,” the country corn of “You Don’t Know Jack,” the farmtown anthem “Harvest Time,” the blues stomp of “Muckalee Creek Water,” or the open-road sprightliness of “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.” Much of this is modern in sensibility, anchored by subtle ties to the past, a deliberate move from Bryan both as a writer -- he had a hand in penning eight of the 13 tunes here -- and a performer, showing that he knows exactly what his strengths are: he’s not flashy yet he’s not boring, he’s laid-back and assured, a modern guy who knows his roots but is happy to be in the present, and it’s hard not to smile along with the guy as he sings.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Luke Bryan's Spring Break...Here to Party is a soundtrack for a rollicking, rowdy spring break -- a concept so clear and commercial it's a wonder nobody has done it before this 2013 set. Well, that's not quite true. Bryan himself has mined this territory before, releasing Spring Break EPs every year since 2009. This 2013 album rounds up those four EPs, adding a foul-mouthed demo of "Take My Drunk A** Home," all in service of having one hell of a good time. The song titles give the game away: "Suntan City," "Just a Sip," "If You Ain't Here to Party," "Shore Thing," "Wild Weekend." Despite a "Buzzkill" and "Spring Break-Up," there are no bad times here and no ballads, either. It's all bright, cheerful, polished arena country, designed for the beach or, better still, landlocked college towns pining for sunshine in the midst of March. Not one song is undeniable, the kind that works into the subconscious, but that doesn't really matter, as this is just breezy fun, a collection of cheerful drinking songs that never threaten to careen out of control.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The title Crash My Party alone is a tip-off that Luke Bryan is quite comfortable residing within the party-hearty persona he's slowly crafted over the course of five years -- ever since he started his pivot away from the traditional country of his 2007 debut. Looking back, it's hard to believe Bryan ever could've been pegged as a possible neo-traditionalist, a singer/songwriter who penned much of his own material and seemed intent on injecting a modicum of twang into his songs. Nowadays, after racking up happy hits like "Rain Is a Good Thing" and "Country Girl (Shake It for Me)," and cannily carving out a position as the country version of James Franco's Alien singing unironic red-state "Spring Break Forever" anthems for booze-soaked bros and gals, Luke Bryan doesn't seem like he ever once bothered with the backwood. With its sly Auto-Tune, diluted hip-hop rhythms, nods to T.I., and rivers of beer, Crash My Party surely doesn't feel as if it belongs to country, not even when Bryan is wooing his paramour with promises of a catfish dinner, and part of that is due to just how darn friendly Luke seems. No matter how many six-packs he sings about swinging or how many parties he crashes, Bryan just doesn't seem like a macho man. He seems like a nice guy, the kind of dude who would never down drinks til dawn, the kind of guy who would grow on a girl, not the one who would swagger over with seduction on his mind. Crash My Party is filled with songs reliant on the idea that Bryan is a blue-collar baller, so fratty that he rhapsodizes about his "Blood Brothers" and wistfully remembers when he and his crew used to run their small town. If Bryan had a voice etched in gravel, perhaps all this would seem like too much barrel-chested boasting, but as he sings in a voice as plain, flat, and friendly as the plains, all his celebrations of the conformist class seem cheerful. They also seem slightly cookie-cutter. There's a reason for that. Bryan, at least for now, has given up the idea of writing his own songs (only two here bear his credit), and has chosen material that's either hard and hooky or soft and sentimental, giving them all productions that gleam in unrelenting sunshine. Under the guidance of producer Jeff Stevens, Bryan sneakily incorporates all manners of modern sounds -- not enough to distract but enough to make an impression, particularly in how the rhythms suggest pop and dance, how Bryan's flow can mimic hip-hop without rapping, and those little Auto-Tune flourishes pop up throughout -- which also doesn't make the singer seem particularly country, but he does seem savvy, somebody who embraces what real redneck living is about in 2013. Everything here, from the sound to the songs, is about improving the brand of "Luke Bryan: Party Bro" and if he never seems to inhabit that role, he's nevertheless able to sell it.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine