After The Storm (Capitol Nashville)

It looks like this old cowboy will remain, sings Chris LeDoux on "Some Things Never Change," the opening track on his new album.

If you can hear the relief and gratitude in Chris' voice when he delivers those words, it's no accident -- when liver disease threatened his life in 2000, no one knew if country's favorite real-life cowboy would stick around. That October, he received a liver transplant and, thankfully, has recovered.

The sense of renewal his near-death experience sparked in Chris permeates After The Storm. Throughout the album, simple pleasures are treasured: the unending support of his wife ("Daily Bread"), the welcoming embrace of home (the exuberant "Don't It Make You Want To Dance") and the no-nonsense satisfaction to be found in ranch and rodeo life ("Some Things Never Change," a duet with its composer, longtime LeDoux booster Garth Brooks).

He sings all these songs with a warmth and ease that lends them a feeling of wisdom being gently imparted, and the album's sound carries a ragged, rugged grace that frames his voice perfectly.

Chris LeDoux may have been thrown, but After The Storm makes clear that he's riding higher in the saddle than ever.

-- Chris Neal

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