Phil Stacey has the country music likeability factor sewn up: Family man. Three ministers in the immediate family. He even re-upped with the Navy after his American Idol success in 2007. But is any of this enough to seek out his self-titled debut?
While on Idol (which ended in a modest fifth-place finish), Stacey carved out a niche primarily as a syrupy balladeer. So, the plunge into rock-country (one hears echoes of Bob Seger and even Boston at times) may surprise. But trouble makes itself known soon enough. Stacey's vocal tone and technique can't rescue the lack of hooks and lyrical insights here. It's easy to recognize some songwriting shorthand in full effect when one either gets tee-shirt lines ("it ain't the fight in the dog...") or repetition of subject matter. For a breezy 11 tracks, he shouldn't rely quite so heavily on the love as a bridge over troubled water theme. There's also a fair share of what might be labeled undercover gospel - where the "you" may be a lover or God or both. Traditional churches would sure appreciate the message of the one contemporary Christian number, "Identity," but they sure might not like the racket.
If you want to effectively isolate the best from the rest, try downloading the successfully uplifting "No Way Around a River" or the heartfelt "What I'm Fighting For." The first single, "If You Didn't Love Me" seems to have been chosen simply on the pedigree of the writers (Wendell Mobley, Jason Sellers and Rascal Flatts' Gary LeVox), but it's barely amongst the top five tracks. That choice for airplay could lead to a lot of lost career momentum. And American Idol alums that don't parlay their name recognition fast disappear just as quickly - like last season's TV.