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Life As We Know It – 2013 (4 Star)

Reviewed by Henry L. Carrigan Jr.

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CDs by Lonestar

With the release of its new album, Lonestar celebrates 20 years as a band. The band also welcomed original vocalist Richie McDonald back to the fold for its first full-length album in three years, and they released it through their own label. All of this is great news for fans of the band that since 1995 has sales in excess of 10 million album units and charted 18 Top 10 songs, including 9 number 1s.

Lonestar has clearly found a formula for its music that reaches mainstream country and pop music fans, and they build on that arena-country sound on this album. There's nothing subtle about any of these songs; it's either "pull off your shirts and rub a little sun screen on/pull out and pop the top on a cold one and have a good time/we rock and roll and the fun never stops" on Party All Day, or the name-checking rap of the break-up song, How Can She Be Everywhere: "2 am Vegas Strip, Big and Rich there she is/Disneyworld, Taj Mahal, it's a small world after all/I see here in the strangest places/Fenway Park to Talledega." I Miss When - if you close your eyes while listening you'll swear you're hearing Mark Wills 19 Somethin' - celebrates the virtues of the stereotypical small-town country life in music that clearly sounds more like Lynyrd Skynyrd than Alabama. On the anthemic Oh Yeah, which closes the album, Lonestar celebrates 20 years by thanking fans - "We'll never forget cause we know it's true/we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you" - and by acknowledging that they've found their formula and will continue to follow it - "Before we leave tonight to rock another town/come on and sing it loud."

Lonestar's new album is all about singing it loud, with one song barely distinguishable from another musically or thematically. Their fans will be ecstatic - as will any fans of pop country best suited for arenas - but as they sing in a line from I Miss When, this noise "don't sound like music at all."