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Blake Stamper

The Way Back to Texas – 2004 (HBM)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Blake Stamper

There's certainly a good helping of twang here, but the vibe is often more tuned into early '90s Nashville (think early Clint Black or Garth Brooks) than Austin, Houston or Dallas. The album mixes spunky honky tonk and Southern rock with the less edgy material found on more mainstream Nashville albums.

The strongest cuts are upbeat numbers such as the swampy "Hickabilly Beat," the mid-tempo canter "This Side of a Heartache" and the Texas-styled swing of "Disgustingly Domesticated." Stamper turns on a strong two-step beat for "Honkytonk Hankerin'," and the twangy adolescent longing of "Hot Rod Chevy" is reminiscent of Alan Jackson's " Chattahoochee."

Less distinctive are crossover tunes like "I'm Home" and "Rich Man," which set their homespun lyrics amidst florid bass and piano, smoothed drums and slick harmonies, and the spoken-sung "She's All That" sounds like any number of recent country radio hits. The one ballad that really shines is Blake's tale of childhood poverty and family riches, "Christmas Things."