Bob Seger is much cooler than you think. Look past the sweatbands and the truck ad anthems, and you’ll find the heart of a Motown kid beating strong within his person. The sound of his early albums was rooted in the soul/R&B canon and even leaned a little psychedelic (take a moment and dial up “2 + 2 = ?” on your favorite streaming service).
You’ll get none of those sounds on Ride Out, of course, but if you didn’t already know that, the information should help soften the shock of seeing names like Jeff Tweedy and Steve Earle in the songwriting credits. Even pushing 70, our man still has his finger on the pulse of the modern roots-rock scene, and it shows in this sturdy burly collection.
Even with that, Ride Out really feels like someone trying to play to the crowded spot where his various fan bases intersect. The country crowd will delight in hearing the voice of Vince Gill on “Listen” (found on the deluxe edition of the album) and the fiddle and banjo stomp of “Adam and Eve.” The rockers should get ready to pump their fists to the rollicking auto ode “Detroit Made” (written by John Hiatt) and “It’s Your World.” Even the folks that consider his work a guilty pleasure should find some measure of delight in his fuss-free take on the Mermaid Avenue standout “California Stars” and one of Steve Earle’s best songs, “The Devil’s Right Hand.”
The biggest surprise really is how unashamedly progressively political this album is. He pays heed to the Lord on album closer “Gates of Eden” (“I remember searching longing for a deeper meaning/and it hit me like a diamond right between the eyes/and I believe everything You said/everything paragraph and every word I read”) with the same fervor that he gives to Earle’s anti-gun anthem and the strong environmentalist statement of “It’s Your World.” That’s surely going to leave some of his less open-minded fans scratching their heads or screaming expletives.
To them I say: Fear not. There’s plenty of meat-and-potatoes rock and blues here for you to chow on and wash down with your favorite domestic beer. And if that’s not good enough, there’s another aging rocker from the Motor City who will be happy to share his crossbow and his conservative views with you.