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Neal McCoy

The Life of the Party – 1999 (Atlantic)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Kickstart Country Standard Time to Nashville

CDs by Neal McCoy

Mirror mirror, on the wall, who's the most nostalgic of them all? Country music fans, of course, if this new Neal McCoy is any indication of what goes through the heads of marketing people. Appealing to the nostalgic tear-in-the-beer set has always been a safe hand in building empathy for a country artist, but McCoy has gone double or nothing here with this familiar old hand.

Sometimes his approach is overtly obvious, such as on "Lipstick on the Radio," which begins: "That song came out back in '62." There's just nothing like targeting your audience directly, as '62 would represent the good old days for today's baby-boomers. His approach is only a little less subtle than saying "This song is directed at anybody who may have been a teenager in the early part of the Sixties and is looking for a New Country artist to relate to."

Elsewhere, McCoy names names, as he longs for songs from the old days of rock & roll. "Something that sounds like a long time ago" he sings on "New Old Songs" as he name-drops Otis Redding, Bill Haley and Buddy Holly.

He even takes his own advice, as "The Girls of Summer" has lyrics that would not sound at all out of place on an old girl-watching Beach Boys recording. McCoy has a pleasant, yet under-whelming, voice. But if you go for this kind of thing, you'll probably be so busy reminiscing about old sock hop experiences, you'll hardly even notice his singing in the background.