In a warm, honeyed drawl reminiscent of early Don Henley, rap-rocker Kid Rock earnestly croons his way through his new Eagles-twangy set called “Born Free,” through duets with Zac Browne, Martina McBride and Sheryl Crow (on the single “Collide,” featuring his longtime idol Bob Seger on piano).
Produced by Rick Rubin, the record finally reaches its zenith with “Times Like These,” a heartwarming ballad dedicated to Rock’s birthplace of Detroit with the lines, “I heard them say that you can’t save that town /But I won’t leave, I will stand my ground.”
He means it.
At 40, Rock — born Robert Ritchie, who plays Shoreline Amphitheatre on a bill with Crow on Friday — also maintains Malibu digs, but he hasn’t strayed far from his blue-collar Midwest roots.
That’s exemplified by his recent No. 1 mash-up single “All Summer Long,” which combined melodies from two of his favorite childhood anthems, Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” and his recent business endeavors, which revolve around giving back to Detroit.
When he heard the once-renowned Made In Detroit clothing company was foundering, he bought it and turned it around with hip new designs. And he’s just become a Michigan brewmaster.
“I don’t know about a lot of things, but I know about music, and I know about beer,” says Rock, who launched his own American Badass Beer, first on draft, and now in fast-selling six-packs.
“So it all kind of started out of spite, because I was so angry that Budweiser, Coors and some of our greatest American companies sold out at a time when this country needed them most. So I thought ‘F--- that! I’ll start a real American beer company, create some jobs in Detroit, help some people out, and have fun doing it.’”
How did Rock settle on the perfect suds? Through taste-test parties with all of his friends, he says, “until we came up with a kick-ass American beer, with no aftertaste, no lemon required. And we’re having fun with it — our ads feature a Badass bottle with this rusted-out old truck sitting on it, and it reads ‘That’s the only way you’ll ever see a lemon in it!’”
Profit was never the point; Rock was raised believing you should always help your neighbors.
That same down-home logic applied to the country-rock “Born Free” experiment. Rock is simply making music that he wants to hear.
Speaking of which, he says mysteriously, “I’ve got a big announcement coming in the fall, something that’s going to be very cool for Detroit. I can’t let it out of the bag just yet, but I am really excited about it!”
IF YOU GO
With Sheryl Crow
Where: Shoreline Amphitheatre, One Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $25 to $81
Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.livenation.com