I'm Already There (BNA Records)
Three million people bought Lonestar's last album, Lonely Grill, and reason numero uno was the band's way with a ballad - slow-dances "Amazed," "Smile" and "Tell Her" all hit No. 1.
So with Lonestar's fourth album upon us, let's get the big question out of the way: How are the ballads?
You've probably already heard the poignant title track, which rushed the Top 10 in no time flat. "Not A Day Goes By" is another obvious hit-in-waiting - a tearjerker with an immediately memorable melody. "Softly" features tasteful strings and a dynamic arrangement building to a pounding climax.
But in the stampede up the charts, it should be noted that I'm Already There's best moments are actually found in its heavy helping of rockers and mid-tempo groovers. "Out Go The Lights" opens the album with a lusty blast of swagger, while the Southern-rockin' "Must Be Love" features a likably silly lyric well sold by singer Richie McDonald's full-on delivery. Best of all is "Without You," a slow-boiling, woe-is-me number that doesn't mess around.
I'm Already There doesn't scrimp on fiddles and steel guitars, but Lonestar's non-country influences are everywhere: "I Want To Be The One" tops an Eagles-go-to-Memphis groove with old-school soul harmonies, while "Let's Bring It Back" is distinguished by its George Harrison-ish guitar line.
The ballads will send I'm Already There flying off store shelves - but there's plenty more to keep it in CD players and tape decks for a good, long while.
-- Chris Neal