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Ryan Shupe & the RubberBand

Dream Big – 2005 (Capitol)

Reviewed by Rick Bell

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CDs by Ryan Shupe & the RubberBand

Acoustic-based country seemed to be a lost art on the radio until Ryan Shupe and his RubberBand came along with the soft-spoken "Dream Big" - a folksy "I Hope You Dance" world of peeled back guitar-and-mandolin-layered positive affirmation.On first blush, "Dream Big" is a pleasant relief sandwiched between Brooks & Dunn and Gretchen Wilson. Yet, there's more where that came from.

Shupe, a Utah native whose songs lean more toward a glass half full of milk than a half-empty glass of whiskey, has a band that jams like NewGrass Revival.Craig Miner's soaring B+la Fleck-esque banjo runs mingle with Shupe's mandolin, and Shupe has packaged the picking with smart, tight lyrics and tenor vocals that's part John Cowan and part Jason Mraz.

It's the essence of Shupe and his band - high-spirited, well-played acoustic tunes offering a positive slice of life. And it still has a place on the radio.