CD REVIEW - 2007

One of the not so subtle signposts of success is polarising music critics and radio and still topping the charts.

Nashville nouveau country duo Big & Rich scored the trifecta with its third album - especially on banjo driven reggae tune Please Man featuring John Rich's co-writer Wyclef Jean.

The other polar cap is a stomping cover of generic AC-DC relic You Shook Me All Night Long, dismissed by purists as fecund fodder for rock radio's familiarity freaks.

Big Kenny Alphin, 49, and former Lonestar singer John Rich, 39, revolutionised the Nashville mainstream at the start of the new millenium by injecting rap and hip-hop into their chart candy.

Like many peers, they utilised TV as their surrogate radio on videos laden with a vast cast of freaks and cosmic curios.

Here the duo initiates a retro refresher by reverting to a vinyl-like A side and B side - the first six tracks veer from ballads to mid tempo and the second sextet kicks like a steroid charged mule.

Strategic sequencing of wedding fuelled first single Lost In This Moment, replete with harmonic bliss as its entrée, is no surprise.

It became Big & Rich's first Billboard #1 chart hit and helped fuel hefty sales of this album.

Equally effective is pairing of the spiritual title track and sibling Faster Than Angels Fly - a fatalistic narrative resurrecting memories of Billy Joe Shaver epic When Fallen Angels Fly.

"Well they burned the candle at both ends/ as they danced into the flame/ making love and making plans/ driving Mother Mary insane/ strong as the beads of a rosary/ never too young to die."

It segues into another faith driven Kenny penned couplet Eternity - with John Legend on piano - and whiskey & pills soaked redemption requiem When The Devil Gets The Best of Me.

It's the calm before the rocky B-side opener - the hook heavy road anthem Radio - and bookend finale Loud.

The macho clout is punctuated by the anthemic, faith driven You Never Stop Loving Somebody and infectious psychedelic flashback of Please Man, torn from the Zappa template.

So is this worth the ticket?

Well, yes, it takes country to another peak without poisoning its roots and fans flames for stable mates Gretchen Wilson and stone country icon John Anderson.

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