Sara Smile by Jimmy Wayne

Grade: B+

Jimmy Wayne certainly shakes things up this time around, bringing in a trio of top producers—Dann Huff, Mark Bright, and Nathan Chapman—to oversee his third album.

The banjo- and guitar-laced lead-off, “Things I Believe,” bears the undeniable musical stamp of co-writer Keith Urban, but Jimmy’s strong vocals make it his own.

The highlight of the album is his soulful take on the Hall & Oates classic “Sara Smile,” which features the duo on backing vocals. The song has been special to Jimmy, as it was this song that he performed for his label execs just before landing his record deal.

While Jimmy's last albums drew heavily from his childhood experiences in foster care and his prison work, this album’s focus on romantic ballads like “Just Look at You,” “Belongs to You” and “I’ll Never Leave You” gives his voice room to soar.

Welcome country music’s new soul man.

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