Rhett Akins' third album finds the hat hunk (a former college football quarterback) again following John Michael Montgomery's lead. Perhaps sensing that he - and Hot New Country - are at a crossroads, Akins avoids the puerile pratfalls of his previous hits, "I Brake for Brunettes" and "That Ain't My Truck," reaching instead for maturity and depth.
As produced by James Stroud, this is a very careful record with no serious missteps, but only modest gains. "Dream the Rest" and "The Rest of Forever" do indeed show Akins stretching and growing, but maturity is hard-earned; it can't just be leased by hiring new producers and selecting tunes with homilies thicker than hominy. Fail-safe tracks like the braying "Better Than It Used to Be" and the too-clever "Not in the Cards" doubtless will keep Akins in two-step with his Rhett Necks.