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4 Runner

4 Runner – 1995 (Polydor)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by 4 Runner

Country's newest quartet is supposedly an updated version of the Statlers and the Oak Ridge Boys, but too often their music merely copies the worst pop elements of those groups. This trend is especially evident in the disc's slower songs, including the beautifully written "The House at the End of the Road," which are constantly bogged down by the Nashville String Machine. At their best, however, the group and its impressive bass vocalist Jim Chapman create a fresh sound.

The best track is the largely acoustic first single, "Cain's Blood," a dark and moody testament to life's daily battle between good and evil in which the four voices become completely integrated into an eerie, foreboding whole. A similarly dark winner is the more electric, country-rock "A Heart With Four-Wheel Drive." Other songs, like Tony Haselden's humorously vivid portrait of a small town's gossip mill, "Ripples," lean more toward traditional country with pleasant if unspectacular results.

All in all, 4 Runner rarely takes the risks necessary to live up to its billing.