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Lonestar

Never Enders – 2016 (Shanachie)

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

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CDs by Lonestar

For a band with as much success, Lonestar has never made it feel easy. There was a spurt at the end of the last century where they rattled off five Number Ones in a row - trademark songs like "Amazed," "What About Now" and "I'm Already There." Beyond that golden streak, there's a story of four different record labels, a Richie McDonald solo departure in 2007 and a whole lot of swings and misses. Part of their problem is one of identity, torn between wanting to rock harder than fans of their sensitive/spiritual songs will allow. Thus we get the major success of songs like "Smile" while albums like 2010's "Party Heard Around The World" (with a cover photo of the band decked out like bikers) was less so.

McDonald has been back in the fold for about five years now, and this is their second effort as a reformed unit. The title track opener is the main highlight - it clearly aims to please as a pop/rock/country candy treat. You can sing along the first time you hear it and forget it an hour later. "I Know It Was You" taps into some of the old magic of a swooning power ballad, but the lyrics feel like retreaded material. There's the same vibe with "I've Been Wrong Before" - Brad Paisley took the same subject and did it infinitely better ("Then"). Something feels forced in the mostly filler between the first and last song (the fun glam-rock "Boomerang").

One of the things you want with a band that hits the 20-year mark is a sense of whether they're changing with the times or a nostalgia act plagiarizing themselves. To that end, "I Want a Love" helps - it has some raucous honky tonk piano and a cute contemporary story about an online dating profile. If there's a path forward for the band, that song might serve as a clue. McDonald's voice remains sharp, and the players don't sound like they're tiring. But whatever comes next, history says it won't come easy.