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Brandon Rhyder

That's Just Me – 2013 (Twelfth Street)

Reviewed by Sam Gazdziak

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CDs by Brandon Rhyder

As a fixture in the Texas/Red Dirt music scene, Brandon Rhyder is also one of its more prolific artists. "That's Just Me" is his eighth album in 12 years and features sounds from across the country landscape, from simple acoustic arrangements to a polished, country-pop songs. Thanks to Rhyder's engaging vocals and some well-written lyrics, "That's Just Me" keeps the listener engaged, even when a song doesn't quite connect.

On some occasions, Rhyder dips into the same well of cliches as his Nashville brethren. The title track and Haggard both praise the simplicity of country living. Some of the imagery is different - Rhyder sings about growing his own vegetables while thankfully leaving out any references to tailgates or dirt roads, but the message is similar. Haggard is noteworthy for referencing Ghost Riders in the Sky and Swingin', which shows Rhyder's knowledge of country music probably stretches back further than most mainstream country singers.

Richest Poor People is a deceptively simple tune about simple living, but Rhyder shows a keen eye for detail that is reminiscent of Guy Clark. Love Red, one of the most engaging songs, offers a few nuggets of wisdom ("I refuse to hate, it takes up too much space") without becoming overly preachy. While many of the songs keep to a traditionalist country arrangement, Rhyder isn't afraid to turn up the sound with the electric Hell's Gate or Pray the Night. Of the 12 songs, only Undercover Lover truly strays too far from the median, coming across as a generic R&B/pop song.

If his lyrics are any indication, Rhyder seems happy with his personal life, but as a musician, he doesn't seem content with maintaining the status quo. "That's Just Me" is an ambitious record, and is one of the rare albums that remains interesting from start to finish.