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Mark Wills

Wish You Were Here – 1998 (Mercury)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Mark Wills

Somewhere there's a line drawn between country music and music masquerading as country. The latter has a steel guitar or maybe a fiddle and the singer usually doesn't have a name like Ice Lemonade, but the former grabs you by the ears and yells LISTEN!

Mark Wills' second CD has some good tracks, but nothing that makes you look for your big buckle and cowboy boots. The current herd of Nashville singers are indistinguishable as one Angus cow from another, and Wills doesn't break out with any of his songs.

Even though it reaches no high peaks, the disc still has its moments. The finest comes with the title song, guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings (and bears an uncanny resemblance to a gospel song by the Kingsmen with the same title). "The Last Memory" breaks the sound-alike mold and reminds you of mistakes made that can't be forgotten, a piece easy to listen to. The first single, "I Do (Cherish You)," is likely destined to be yet another wedding anthem, but it lacks the power of Tracy Byrd's often played song of love. That's probably the best description of this collection of songs, pleasant but without much power, more numbing than exhilarating, country-pop all over again.

Someone needs to introduce Wills to Harlan Howard before his next album.