In Another World (Monument Records)

Joe Diffie has recently said he's no longer interested in sappy songs - "mushy love ballads with puppy dogs and rainbows." Well, there aren't any pets or rainbows to be found on Joe's eighth and latest album - although one of its best tracks, "Like A River Dreams Of Rain," does soar on yearning vocals as warm as a spring shower.

No, for the most part Joe deals with adult emotions on In Another World. On the Top 20 title cut, for instance - a shimmering ballad perfect for his expressive tenor - he's running away from the haunting memory of a former lover. Things are a little better at home on the elegant "If I Lost Her," the story of a man who comes close to risking what he's got, but avoids sweet temptation at the last minute.

Joe picks up the tempo on the rollicking, fiddle-driven "Stoned On Her Love," which romps along to an infectious beat. "This Pretender" also sports a strong rhythm and "My Give A Damn's Busted" is a silly country-rock ditty redeemed by Joe's good-natured delivery. The easygoing "Hollow Deep As Mine," on the other hand, is all pure-country flow.

In Another World concludes with "The Grandpa That I Know," a sentimental ballad that offers a child's take on his grandfather's funeral. Joe's quietly powerful performance keeps the song from becoming overly saccharine - too "puppy dogs and rainbows," as he might say.

-- Mark Marymont

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