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Honing their edge, but the message's a bit dull

November 13, 2005|Randy Lewis

Big & Rich

"Comin' to Your City"

(Warner Bros. Nashville)

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THE best thing about this duo's 2004 debut album, "Horse of a Different Color," was the outsider attitude it brought to the country music mainstream.

They rode in on the skirttails of Gretchen Wilson, their higher-profile pal in Nashville's so-called "Muzik Mafia," and they repeat that scenario with the arrival of their sophomore album (in stores Tuesday).

The upstart attitude remains, but where Wilson has shown real growth as a writer and singer on her second album, "Big" Kenny Alphin and John Rich are stuck treading water.

The loopy opening track, "Freak Parade," is followed by the raucous title song, a start that promises more than the rest of the album can deliver. "Soul Shaker" and "Caught Up in the Moment" are garden-variety social-rebel chest-beaters.

They cast their lasso wide enough to rope in bits of hard rock, country funk and soul, but they work best when the calculated rowdiness settles down and they allow some human weakness and feeling in. That happens on the breakup song "Never Mind Me," the caring "I Pray for You" and a true-to-life ballad of war heroism, "8th of November."

Mainstream country music can certainly benefit from a little attitude adjustment, but while maverick attitude is good, fresh content is better.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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