Happy Hour: The South River Road Sessions by Uncle Kracker

Best known for his collaborations with Kenny Chesney (“When the Sun Goes Down”) and fellow rap/rocker and country enthusiast Kid Rock, Matt Shafer (aka “Uncle Kracker”) takes the next logical step with a six-song country EP.

If the songs sound familiar, it’s because this new set is comprised of country reworkings of songs that he’s previously released, mostly on 2009’s Happy Hour.

The jazzy, pop-infused melody of the Top 20 country hit “Smile” makes up for a set of less than inspired lyrics. Despite this lightweight opener, the rest of the six-song set moves beyond Uncle Kracker’s happy-go-lucky image. Kid Rock provides harmony vocals on “Good to Be Me,” a soulful rocker about appreciating the good things in life.

The determined, string-driven “I Ain’t Leavin’ It Like This” is one of the highlights, a departure for listeners who are mostly familiar with Uncle Kracker’s sunnier grooves. A banjo-adorned sample of Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” on “Livin’ the Dream” doesn’t do much to establish any country cred, but it’s a fun ride.

He ends on a philosophical bent with “Letter to My Daughters,” a true-to-life message that laments the musician’s traveling life, which means missing out on family moments like his children’s first steps.

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