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POP MUSIC | RECORD RACK

** 1/2, DAVID BALL, "Starlite Lounge," Warner Bros.

June 30, 1996|Richard Cromelin

On his second album, this late-blooming South Carolinian remains a stalwart throwback, loyal to the spirit of such country music pillars as Webb Pierce and George Jones. A firm, sinewy sound and an adherence to classic forms make for an uncompromising set.

But it's also a little dull. Ball sings with a salty, stinging twang that grabs your attention, and he pulls out such Jones tricks as a sudden, clenched attack on a syllable or phrase. On his 1994 debut, "Thinkin' Problem," Ball was lively and aggressive, but here his pitches are right down the middle, without any ambiguity or distinction.

In "Circle of Friends," for instance, Ball describes a romantic mismatch between a down-home boy and a high-society girl. It's a scenario full of potential for nuance and humor, but he delivers it so straightforwardly, with such little attitude, that it's utterly lifeless.

Ball never manages to sound buoyant and bright enough to be convincing on the few upbeat, happy tunes. At least the tear-jerkers that dominate the album ring true, if not deep.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), to four stars (excellent).

*

TimesLine 808-8463

To hear excerpts from the albums reviewed, call TimesLine and press * and the artist's corresponding four-digit code.

David Ball *5726

In 805 area code, call (818) 808-8463.

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