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AJ Croix

American Idols – 2016 (Creative Entertainment Network/RED)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by AJ Croix

Don't be confused by the title of A.J. Croix's solo release. He is not a refugee from the Fox reality show. The New Jersey singer/songwriter mixes country, folk and rock in a collection of mostly dark themed compositions. The opening title track is particularly scathing in its condemnation of current social ills as Croix calls out "bankers, lawyers and pedophiles," as well as taking an all encompassing shot at society ("Anything for a minute of fame, break all the rules, change the game/Be outrageous have no shame, make 'em shout in your name").

Croix is at his best on the folksy ballads in the mode of Ryan Bingham. These are also somewhat dark, as with "The Road" ("We work our whole lives to build our own jails") and "Remain" ("Yeah life can bring you pain, even sunny days turn into rain"). The closing "Remember When" is a sad tale of lost love ("When she said the words no lover should hear/It nearly bled him to death").

The rock influence is most evident on "You Don't Need Me," reminiscent of John Mellencamp. "Train Of Sorrow" and "Crawl Back" recall Bob Dylan's "Slow Train Coming" era. One of the stronger tracks is the bluesy "Top Side of the Grass" in which Croix contemplates ways to improve his life ("I could be a better man and find myself a job/Or I could buy a gun and find some place to rob").

Produced by Malcolm Burn (Dylan, Mellencamp, Emmylou Harris), the instrumentation is stellar throughout with Croix (guitar), Don Elliker (steel guitar) and Steve Decker (drums) and Burn also contributing on multiple instruments including bass, keyboards, percussion and guitar. With Croix's pleasant vocals and strong compositions, Croix impresses.