It's telling how two songs on Keith Urban's "Graffiti U" album chug along to a reggae beat because pop rhythms and non-country elements are the obvious inspirations for this collection. Opener "Coming Home" may borrow (steal?) a guitar riff from Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried," but this is where that country road begins and ends.
Urban follows "Coming Home" with "Never Comin' Down," which is introduced with a funky bass line almost worthy of the Seinfeld theme music. The track eventually incorporates a banjo, but this is only for scenic color, not true banjo music. Urban, who started his career as an electric guitar-slinging newcomer before becoming the heartthrob he is today, has always been a musical pop-ulist. But maybe never more so than with "Graffiti U."
It's becoming more and more difficult to describe mainstream country playlists as truly country music, and Urban's music is only going to make this task harder. One called "Gemini," for example, has a driving rhythm and Lindsey Buckingham-esque vocal, which would have made it a near-perfect fit for Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors" album. This is no great surprise, though, as many country artists are far more inspired by '70s classic rock than anything distinctly country.
A few tracks, at least, will be pleasing to ears with more traditional tastes. "Texas Time" bops along like an Australian cousin to Don Williams' version of "Tulsa Time," even with its Joe Walsh-y guitar solo, while the empowering "Female" is beautifully understated.
There's no reason to doubt Keith Urban's "Graffiti U" will be a commercial success. It's just too bad he doesn't use his commercial clout to both create and place more traditional sounding songs on the radio.