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Matt King

Hard Country – 1999 (Atlantic)

Reviewed by Tom Netherland

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CDs by Matt King

The title says it all. Matt King's solid second effort makes no bones about it: this is country music pure, hard and simple. Where his 1997 debut "Five O'Clock Hero" failed, this succeeds. Instead of playing Nashville's sound-alike game for the sake of radio exposure, songs such as "From Your Knees," with lovely harmonies from Patty Loveless, bear conviction's imprint upon them like good country songs should.

And if radio doesn't pick it up, perhaps the fiddle-fire of "Buryin' Bones By The Dozen" will do the trick. Alas, King's album may be too country for radio. The North Carolina native covers country's bases rather thoroughly. Religion ("From Your Knees"), romance ("I Will Come Back") and retreads (Billy Crash Craddock's "Rub It In" ) span the album's 11 tracks of tales with nary a hint of contrivance to be found.

There's much to be said for a singer who stays close to his roots. With King's latest, there's no doubting his love of the traditional, hard-core country sound. It's simply terrific.