Frankie Ballard by Frankie Ballard

This Michigan native wields his raspy, bluesy voice and works his axe with a confidence that belies his 28 years. Most Midwestern country-rockers are inevitably compared to John Mellencamp, and Frankie’s voice bears more than a minor resemblance on “Place to Lay Your Head,” though Frankie’s repertoire is heavier on odes to booze and bombshells than on Mellencamp’s observations of social injustice.

“Get On Down the Road” finds him leaving his continental breakfast town to let these big wheels roll toward Tennessee. On “A Buncha Girls,” he gives a slight nod to Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” with the lyric, They say “Sha-la-la, hey-hey-hey” with the band and party all night long. The soulful “Rescue Me” and “Sober Me Up” are surprisingly substantial songs of remorse and desperation, while he closes with “Grandpa’s Farm,” a bona fide barnburner that showcases his guitar work at its best. 

With his fiery fretwork, charm and passionate vocals, Frankie just might be a suitable potential successor to guitar slinger Keith Urban (albeit minus the Australian accent), and that’s not a bad place to be.

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