Andy Griggs' new album presents us with a man you might not hesitate to have a beer with, but it doesn't make him out to be someone you'd likely consider for elected office. He sings with a thick and warm vocal tone, but his songs - many of which he co-wrote - throw out clich+ after clich+, much like a friendly stranger with a loose tongue down at the end of the bar. Keys to a happy life are so basic, even a simpleton backwoods farmer can comprehend them. "Practice Life," his big, blustery balled duet with Martina McBride, advises listeners to make the best of this life while they're still here; "Freedom" warns about how the liberty of an illicit love affair can actually hold hidden chains; "Custom Made," with its jangle-y Heartbreaker guitar sound, celebrates a mate's perfect fit.
Griggs sings with plenty of sincere emotion throughout, but producer David Malloy gives him such a predictable rock-lite backing, he often sounds like an overly pop Tom Petty, or Jon Bon Jovi (especially on the meat-and-potatoes rock of "A Hundred Miles Of Bad Road."). "Sweetheart Of Beinja Bayou," with its banjo plunking along a Cajun musical side road, is a pleasant diversion from the norm. "How Cool Is That" also shines due to its winning autobiographical lyrical tone. Otherwise, this is constrained by its slick Nashville-tries-to rock production approach.