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Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy Thing by Keith Urban

“Once in a Lifetime,” the kick-off track and first hit from the Australian superstar’s fourth American solo album, is disappointingly predictable Keith Urban: the thumping drum-machine intro, the weather metaphors, the surging chorus, the fiery guitar solo.

That’s a shame, because once “Once” ends, the canvas of Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing comes alive with musical adventure and passionate performances. As a singer, he sounds more emotionally invested than ever; as a composer, he fills every corner of these songs with intriguing melodies; as co-producer (with longtime collaborator Dann Huff ), he introduces quirky touches that tickle the ear; as a guitarist, he shreds mightily.

It’s getting more and more difficult to think of Keith Urban’s music as “country”—the dominant influence on Love is the widescreen rock of U2. But who cares? Keith is painting by heart here, and the result is—mostly—a masterpiece.

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