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“Crickets” by Joe Nichols

Joe Nichols has one of those voices that was just made to sing country music, whatever that may sound like at the time. So on his cheekily titled seventh full-length album, Crickets (his first for Red Bow Records), the beloved neotraditionalist may surprise some listeners by trying on some contemporary clothes.

Lead single “Sunny and 75” has already proven to be a hit by marrying romantic lyrics to a more up-tempo rock groove, but it’s always Joe’s voice that’s front and center.

“Baby You’re in Love With Me” even has some—gasp!—drum programming, but his easygoing charm sells it.

At times, the overstuffed (at 16 tracks) album struggles to keep the memorable hooks coming, opting instead for generic tales of women on creek banks. But tracks like “Billy Graham’s Bible,” where the reverend’s book is an example of how things find their way to the right place—like him to his wife—or the laid-back cover of Merle Haggard’s “Footlights” really make the most of Joe’s talents.

Appropriately, the album is bookended by the sound of—what else?—crickets.

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