Rebel Soul by Kid Rock

Back in 2002, on the quintessential CMT Crossroads with Kid Rock and Hank Williams Jr., the rap-rock bad boy borrowed a cowboy hat from a fan and cheesily proclaimed himself “Kid Country.” While he has yet to fully assume that moniker, his recorded albums, and even his mesmerizing live show, have gradually incorporated a country sound.

That trend continues on his latest, the rewarding 14-song Rebel Soul. The title track, co-written with Kid’s pal Uncle Kracker, begins with an opening chord reminiscent of Alabama’s “Mountain Music” and is as infectious as anything on the country singles chart.

Likewise, the honky-tonkin’ “Redneck Paradise” could be the second cousin of Toby Keith’s “Trailerhood.” Leadoff track “Chickens in the Pen,” meanwhile, is a Southern-rock boogie just calling out for an assist from Blackberry Smoke. (Not that Kid’s excellent Twisted Brown Trucker Band isn’t up to the task.)

It’s “Happy New Year,” however, that is the hit just waiting to happen. Written by John Eddie, whose "Lowlife" was a highlight of 2007's Rock N Roll Jesus, the shuffling any-port-in-a-storm song plays like an outtake from the seminal Wanted: The Outlaws album. Willie himself would raise a glass in approval.

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