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Party Heard Around The World – 2010 (Saguaro Road)

Reviewed by Andrew W. Griffin

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CDs by Lonestar

After so many years, most band's develop a sound that when you hear it, you say - "Ah, some REO Speedwagon" or "Swell, some Bee Gees." But when a band, known for a particular sound and a lead singer's voice, in particular, when that lead singer quits and the band presses on with a new singer, sometimes the transition simply doesn't work. Such is the case with Lonestar. This is a band that in recent years was pegged as a milquetoast, "sippy-cup country" band that offered harmless tunes about the joys of domestic life (Front Porch Lookin' In) or silly odes to stay-at-home-dads (Mr. Mom). The band admitted that their previous label had pushed them into a corner, basically stereotyping them and stalling out their career.

Apparently, this was enough for lead singer and Lonestar co-founder Richie McDonald to split, leaving behind guitarist Michael Britt, keyboardist Dean Sams and drummer Keech Rainwater. The problem, though, is that McDonald's voice made Lonestar. It's a good voice. Full of passion and country-embracing enthusiasm. As for his band mates, Lonestar relied way too much on sidemen to have developed a discernible sound of their own. Such are the perils of years of sucking the Nashville money-machine teat.

So, the trio finds Cody Collins, a handsome man with a voice that sounds eerily similar to country superstar Keith Urban. The new album of 10 songs is particularly bland. Not a good sign for a group wanting to re-introduce themselves to the world. The opening track, Beat (I Can Feel Your Heart), is mid-tempo pop-country with enough acoustic instrumentation to keep you from skipping it upon first listen. Collins' voice is appealing and the instrumentation is decent. This could be a hit for the group, something they desperately need at this stage in their career.

Making Memories recalls Bon Jovi's work on the country-influenced album "Lost Highway," from a few years ago. Y.O.U., another song that is good, but not great. You sense that they are trying to get their footing, and it doesn't quite work. In a restless mood, Collins sings about "burnin' up that highway" on Live Laugh and Love, one of the stronger tracks.

The title track, strangely enough, closes out the album. Considering the rockin' nature and Collins' vocal confidence here, the group welcomes listeners to a party with the cringe-worthy line: "ain't no stoppin', we'll be rockin','til they're dancin' down in Timbuktu, girl."

A lot of songs about love, life and relationships. The usual clichés you find in today's pop-country.