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Ryan Shupe & the RubberBand

Last Man Standing – 2008 (Montage)

Reviewed by Jessica Phillips

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CDs by Ryan Shupe & the RubberBand

The beauty of a rubber band is that it is simultaneously flexible, strong, and still holds everything together. While their last album was a straightforward hybrid of bluegrass and country, this finds Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband broadening their tight musical skills, resulting in a complex album that keeps your attention.

The leadoff "Don't Leave Me Lonely," sets a bright tone with its punchy guitar and fiddle backing, while "Be the One," is a sunny, banjo-laden ditty of a shy guy's longing for his girl. The stubborn "It's My Life," turns the band's sole semi-hit, "Dream Big" on its head with its rebel lyrics ("I can only turn the other cheek for so long/ there comes time when I've got to be strong"). This mix of country, bluegrass and folk gets some Latin spice in "If You Could Live a Different Life," while the title track's driving drums and syncopated rhythms brings to mind Jason Aldean's rock sensibility. The loopy closer "Corn Dogs," a hilarious bluegrass ode to one of lead singer Shupe's favorite foods, proves the band hasn't lost their sense of humor.

Shupe's lead vocals aren't overly compelling here, but that lets the songs themselves and the Rubberband's instrumentals shine.