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Doug Stone

The Long Way – 2002 (Audium)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Doug Stone

Doug Stone came into Nashville as part of the neo-traditionalist wave in the late '80s and early '90s that made household names of Clint Black, Garth Brooks and Stone's fellow Georgian, Alan Jackson. Though Stone's mellow baritone didn't have quite the barroom edge of the Big Three, he showed he could honky-tonk a bit on early hits like "Fourteen Minutes Old." Mostly, though, he established himself as a smooth, romantic balladeer with material like "I'd Be Better Off (In A Pine Box)."

A decade later, after a few career road bumps caused by health problems, he's still pretty smooth, still romantic on fare like "Losing You" and "One Heartache At A Time." The production is somewhat heavier on the string sections than on fiddle and pedal steel, but Stone's low-key delivery is the focus of an album that won't set anyone to boot-scootin', but is satisfying in a laid-back way. The strongest cuts, though, are acoustic revisitings of three earlier hits, "More Love," "Born In The Dark" and the aforementioned "Pine Box." Doug Stone may not drive arena crowds into Garth-like frenzy, but he knows how to play to his strengths.