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The Sky's the Limit – 1998 (Arista)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by BlackHawk

In 1994, BlackHawk came onto the country scene with an exciting raw sound mixing rock guitars with tinkling mandolin and Henry Paul's distinctive, rough lead vocal with the harmonies of Van Stephenson and Dave Robbins. By last year's "Love and Gravity," that sound had been diluted, and they had a hard time getting radio airplay.

Now they're back with their fourth CD, and although it's not as good as their fantastic debut, it's better than their last album. "Goin' Down Fightin'" finds the band at its best - performing high-energy, twangy country rock - and the a cappella closing is the perfect showcase for the band's three-part harmonies.

Surprisingly, the members of BlackHawk wrote just three songs here, but they've done a good job of choosing songs from outside writers. "Who Am I Now," for example, is an outstanding midtempo song about the identity crisis that results from a long-time companion leaving.

With this album, BlackHawk moves closer to the sound that captured listeners in the first place, and as a result, they have their best album since 1995.