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Joe Diffie

Twice Upon a Time – 1997 (Epic)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Joe Diffie

Once upon a time, Joe Diffie's career seemed to be on the fast track. After all, he had a golden voice perfectly suited to ballads and honky tonkers and some good material to boot.

But along the way, Diffie seems to have gotten pigeon-holed by success with novelty songs. And while Diffie may talk about not wanted to be lassoed by such songs, he seems to have done so again. The lead-off song and single "This is Your Brain" is catchy enough - Diffie sings it on full throttle - but there's not much substance there. "Houston, We Have a Problem" fares worse. It's plain clunky.

Diffie is convincing on the title track, a ballad, and "The Promised Land,"perhaps the best song. He concludes the album with a series of good vocal performances ("It's Hard to Be Me" with nice fiddling from Stuart Duncan and "John Doe," a gospel song). The playing is straightforward, but lacks any soul. Producers Johnny Slate and Diffie relied on strings too often, making the songs often sound too syrupy. They should have turned down the drums as well.

Hopefully, next time, Diffie will get back to his roots and head for the fast track.