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Josh Thompson

Way Out Here – 2010 (SonyBMG)

Reviewed by Nelson Gullett

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CDs by Josh Thompson

On his debut, Josh Thompson shows he is capable of writing songs in his own voice even while sometimes bowing to the wishes of Nashville radio programmers. On his hit, Beer on the Table, Thompson sings of being a hard working everyman who breaks his back all week for the chance to blow off steam with some brews on the weekend. Throw in some banjo laced electric guitar hooks and a sing-along friendly chorus, and you have a radio ready country/pop song.

In contrast, You Ain't Seen Country Yet takes the sing-along factor one step further by including a faux live audience to join in for a closing chorus of "Bow-chick-a-wow-wow." Thompson runs through a list of things that make him "country," including a love for shotguns, pickup trucks and Merle Haggard cassettes. Unfortunately, these overused country cliches lead one to wonder if he's ever truly listened to those old tapes.

It's as though he mainly attempts to follow a blueprint to chart success. And, with the noted exception, it works. Thompson's true strength, however, comes when he abandons the drinking song/country anthem blueprint and finds his own voice.

The title track shares a similar theme to You Ain't Seen Country Yet, but comes off as much more authentic. Here, the cowboy posturing is replaced by talk of a simpler life based on hard work and down home values. Similarly, Always Been Me draws from a deeper lyrical well and reads as a companion piece to Chris Knight's It Ain't Easy Being Me.

Thompson has found a way to craft a disc featuring both formulaic radio tracks and quality album cuts that reward those who choose to dig beyond the on-air playlists.