American Child(Arista Nashville)

Before hitting the Top 10 on his own, Phil Vassar scored by penning hits for stars like Tim McGraw and Alan Jackson. But from the sound of the dozen originals on his second album, American Child, Phil is saving the good stuff for himself these days.

You've probably already heard the title hit, a richly evocative tribute to the all-American lifestyle that steers clear of corniness. But Phil also deals with a more specific bit of Americana in the Southern-rocking "Athens Grease," a wry tale of auto obsession.

Even car fanatics can find time for girls, and Phil has some interesting stories to share about love. The nostalgic "Forgettin's So Long" is about a fellow who still remembers the phone number of a high school girlfriend. The more subdued "I Thought I Never Would Forget" sifts through a box filled with memories of a past relationship.

The elegant ballad "Already Gone" is more immediate as a tentative lover realizes it's too late to back out of a quickly budding romance. Phil looks at the same subject humorously in "Houston," while the dramatic "Stand Still" can be heard as a romantic statement or as an expression of wonderment and joy at fatherhood.

Throughout, Phil's warm, expressive voice is wrapped in sleek arrangements that occasionally touch on rock, but maintain a strong country flair. The combination makes American Child sparkle like a gem on a sunny afternoon.

-- Mark Marymont

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