Dan + Shay

Where It All Began – 2014 (Warner)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Dan + Shay

Dan + Shay debut with a likable disc, if your bent is the Rascal Flatts world of country. In fact, Dan Smyers of Pittsburgh and Shay Mooney of Arkansas come mighty close to mimicking the longstanding country stars with the biggest difference that they're a duo and Rascal Flatts is a trio. Perhaps the similarities ought come as no surprise because the duo started writing the day after they met in Nashville in December 2012. Guess who placed their first song on hold? Rascal Flatts.

Mooney handles the lead vocals on the dozen songs, all of which were written by the duo with the assistance of others. Danny Orton helped write six songs and also co-produced with Scott Hendricks. Mooney has pleasant, soft, pretty sounding vocals (the softer, mid-tempo, acoustic based "Can't Say No"). He doesn't tend to dig down deep in the well of emotion something that RF's Gary LeVox is particularly adept at. On the final track, "Close Your Eyes," though, one could easily imagine Taylor Swift doing the vocals - it's that soft sounding of a song. Of course, one doesn't get any sense that the breezy, radio friendly songs, which tend to focus on young, very lustful love, are intended to cut very deep. Let's put it this way - there is a lot of kissing going on in a long of these songs. The duo seems clearly focused on trying to attract a young, female audience, especially given the good looks of Mooney and Smyers.

Dan + Shay use a lot of country instrumentation with Bryan Sutton's banjo starting off the disc on "Show You Off." Sutton's mandolin often is present as well (he starts off the duo's summertime hit "19 You + Me"), but it's more of an adjunct to the pop sounds instead of defining the music.

Devotees of the School of Rascal Flatts, Dan + Shay mix their formula - soft, silky country that sounds real sweet for the female set - well.