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Ty Herndon

Big Hopes – 1998 (Sony)

Reviewed by Walter Allread

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CDs by Ty Herndon

Country music now resembles early Sixties American pop, with producers the real artists and singers merely interchangeable faces on record sleeves. As long as Ty Herndon's nice voice and face can front a hit, he's good for another 100,000 miles of touring and audio tape.

Byron Gallimore, who produced Tim McGraw's smashes, helms 6 of 11 cuts here, while Doug Johnson, Herndon's first producer, handles five. Gallimore scores bigger with a "smaller" sound. On the title track and "Thinkin' With My Heart Again," both hinging on crystalline acoustic fingerpicking, Herndon sounds almost as believably sensitive as McGraw.

Johnson's five tracks are solid, but not special. He also plays up Herndon's sensitivity on "How Much Can One Man Love You," but can't resist the big drums and key change at the final chorus, or the puffy coda on the closing "Tears in God's Eyes." His "No Brakes" is good stuff, but tellingly, four Johnson tracks end the album. Gallimore's are front-loaded.