Charles Esten – Love Ain’t Pretty

Charles Esten - Love Ain't Pretty



4.5/5 Pros

  • Wide range of songs
  • Very nice vocal performance

When I recently reviewed This Girl by Hannah Ellis, I just could not believe that this record is in fact her debut long-play. It is feeling even more weird to me with Love Ain’t Pretty, which I review in this posting. I know Charles Esten’s music for so long, I saw him live during the 2020 C2C in Berlin and loved his wide range of songs. Did this guy really never release an album before? At least, this has changed on 26th January 2024 finally – here is my review.



Charles Esten – About The Artist

Charles Esten Puskar III is the full civil name of Charles Esten. He was born on 9th September 1965 in Pittsburgh, but later grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, right South of Washington D.C.. Esten is not only a musician, but in fact started his career as a comedian and improvisation actor. As such, he sometimes also acted as Chip Esten – his very first TV appearance was even under the name Chip Puskar. This part of his entertainment career later also lead to TV and movie appearances. For example, you can see Esten as a guest star in Married… with children or Star Trek: The Next Generation.His most important role from a nowadays perspective is likely Deacon Claybourne in the Nashville TV series, though.

Since 2012, Esten is also releasing music. The first releases, though have been all somehow linked to the Nashville appearances. The first independent collaboration has been the 2020 duet with Jillian Cardarelli, Strong. Despite his release catalog is not overwhelmingly large, he is a rather frequent musician on stage of the Grand Ole Opry. In 2018, he already had his 100th performance there.


Charles Esten – Love Ain’t Pretty – Track by Track

The 14 track album lasts 50 minutes.

1. Love Ain’t Pretty

The title track takes the burden (or: the honor) to open for Charles Esten’s album. The first song is rather slow, very emotional. The chorus feels a bit too repetitive to me. The highlights of the opener to me are the lovely guitar solo in the bridge and the outstanding vocal performance by Esten, which feels very relatable.

2. A Little Right Now

A Little Right Now has been the second album release of this album. Released in late April 2024, the song initially feels like a country ballad and is even a bit soupy, However, Esten defined a nice plot for this listen, which leads to a very leveraged and harmonic experience between gentle and energetic emotions.

3. One Good Move

Talking about the timeline of Love Ain’t PrettyOne Good Move was the first step towards the album in regards of releases. Similar to the two songs before, Charles Esten takes you on a walk through different moods and atmospheres in this March 2023 release. I especially love the chorus of this song.

If there was trouble to get into, I was getting into itIf there was something that I shouldn’t do, you know I would do itI was young, I was dumb, I was always on the runMessed it up all the ones‘Cause when I look at youI see my one good moveYeah, you’re my one good move

4. In A Bar Somewhere

In A Bar Somewhere is the first song of the album, which feels a bit more straight. It does not come with a strong contrast between the verses and the chorus, which leads to a very fluent listen. Love ti.

5. I Ain’t

While the first songs of the album have rather been on the slow and emotional side, I Ain’t is the first country rocker of Love Ain’t Pretty. Hope he is playing this song on his upcoming European tour (see below) – it is a blast and a lot of fun.

6. Another Song About You

The sixth track is another song which has not shared with the Charles Esten fans yet (at least not on streaming platforms etc.). Another Song About You is a rather mid-tempo recording, which has a really nice and catching groove. This song definitely hits my comfort zone quite perfectly.

7. When Love Ain’t Love

The double release When Love Ain’t Love and Make You Happy were the last teasers of this album. The two song combined just hit a combined 52k streams on Spotify at the day of album release. This really hurts me. Charles Esten deserves much more attention that that. And this song is a really nice one – I could imagine it could be a great radio track for European mainstream radio stations. The country music vibes in here are rather hidden. The song reminds me of the outstanding 2020 Richard Marx album, Limitless.

8. Candlelight

Candlelight does not sound like a firework of electric guitar and party powers, does it? Indeed, you receive a beautiful country ballad, which has some power ballad elements. However, these don’t disturb you from being romantic (and light a candle?) while listening to it. The eighth song is a beauty. Maybe you state She’s my candlelight to your beloved one during the listen as well.

9. Back In My Life Again

Back In My Life Again introduces a rather different style. The rhythmic song has a country-pop touch, the vibe of the track also makes you move to the melody of the song. Lovely one.

10. Make You Happy

I told you about the rather limited release success of Make You Happy already. This song is the showcase of Charles Esten’s bassist, who is pushing the country groove-o-meter to a high level. Partially, the song catches me like a reggae track. Thereby, the song does not push for the full summer vibes – but Make You Happy rather feels like a sunny spring day than cold winter.

11. Willing To Try

Willing To Try is  rather quiet song, which feels a bit of mousy at first listen, especially in the context of the album. However, the song comes with a nice touch and can easily be underrated. Nice one.

12. Maybe I’m Alright

The twelfth song is not an uptempo song at all, but it is much more present than its predecessor. One reason for that is the blues style, in which the guitars and the backing organ lead to a sound which is rather unique in this album. Charles Esten is no Joe Cocker, but the vibe of the song reminds me a bit of the legendary British artist.

13. Down The Road (feat. Eric Paslay)

The album closes with two well-known tracks. And, honestly, how could a track co-written and co-performed by Eric Paslay go wrong? The two artists recorded one of the highlights of the album. Mentioning music legends, do you feel a bit of Bruce Springsteen spirit in here as well? Really good listen with a clear rock music attitude.

14. Somewhere In The Sunshine

The chucker-out Somewhere In The Sunshine is one of the emotional highlights of the album. Charles Esten is lovely in these kind of tracks.


Charles Esten – Love Ain’t Pretty – Spotify

Hee is the album on Spotify:


Charles Esten – Love Ain’t Pretty – My View

After I listened to the first few songs of the album, I was a bit of afraid that Love Ain’t Pretty might be a bit of monotonous. Luckily, Charles Esten proofed me absolutely wrong and presents a wide range of songs and atmosphere in his debut long-play. From ballads to rock, from summer vibes to rather intense listens – you got a wide range of country and Americana music in here. Definitely, this one is an album worth listening to.

Favorite Song: Another Song About You


Charles Esten – Love Ain’t Pretty Tour 2024

In April and May, Charles Esten is touring multiple stages in Europe:

Sa 20.04.2024 Edinburgh (United Kingdom) – Usher Hall
Mo 22.04.2024 Glasgow – Royal Concert Hall
We 24.04.2024 Gateshead – The Glasshouse
Fr 26.04.2024 London – Palladium
Sa 27.04.2024 Bristol – O2 Academy
Mo 29.04.2024 Salford – Lowry Lyric Theatre
Tu 30.04.2024 Birmingham – Town Hall
Th 02.05.2024 Utrecht (Netherlands)- TivoliVredenburg
Fr 03.05.2024 Hamburg (Germany) – Fabrik
Sa 04.05.2024 Stuttgart – Im Wizemann
Mo 06.05.2024 Munich – Circus Krone
Tu 07.05.2024 Cologne – Carlswerk Victoria
Th 09.05.2024 Copenhagen (Denmark) – DR Studio 2
Fr 10.05.2024 Oslo (Norway) – Kulturkirken Jakob

Postings with Tour Dates 2024

Here are postings released in 2024, which contain tour dates: in Pittsburgh

Here are all other postings by related to Greater Pittsburgh:

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