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Chris Young

A.M. – 2013 (RCA)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Chris Young

The refrain from the title track from Chris Young goes "We're wide awake in the A.M." Based on the sounds emanating from Young on his fourth CD, he'd be awake at any hour if they listened to this music. Young came up through the ranks as what could be described as on the traditional side. Drinkin' Me Lonely from 2006 was evidence of that. But since country music is a moving target, Young's brand has modern flourishes. Lots.

Unfortunately, it seems that Young - fine voice with a bit of a drawl and a good ability to hold notes for good effect - has been listening to too many of his counterparts these days like Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton. That means that these songs rock more than they veer towards traditional country. Twin guitars are kosher. So is the big partying scene found in a chunk of the songs.

One could easily imagine Shelton tackling Nothin' But the Cooler Left, with its line about "good old boys and country girls everywhere." It's very catchy, but it's geared towards the concert setting (particularly when Young sings "everybody grab a cold beer, pop it open, raise it up in the air," you know that's exactly what is going to happen when he hits the stage).

Young starts far more softly on Who I Am to You before electric guitars drench the music. A more traditional approach would have been to use pedal steel, but that doesn't seem to be part of the mix these days.

Young's baritone stands out on the slower moving Text Me Texas, where the rapid pace takes a welcome breather. Young has always enjoyed a pleasing, easy to listen to voice, and, most fortunately, whether you like these songs or not, his voice remains a constant (the toned down Forgiveness, probably the most traditional sounding song here).

Young knowingly takes a different tack this time around, but that's not necessarily a good thing at all. He's capable of far more substantial music than this.