Stars & Stripes (Lyric Street)

Aaron Tippin is sort of a country music Sylvester Stallone - a lean, muscular man's man who's still romantic enough to appeal to the ladies. Too often his image draws the focus away from his one-of-a-kind voice, which leaps effortlessly from barrel-chested baritone to a dark, leathery tenor.

Stars & Stripes, his eighth album, shows Aaron in great form, doing just what his fans love to hear. The CD takes its title from "Where The Stars And Stripes And The Eagle Fly," among the best of several post-9/11 patriotic anthems. "I Believed," another powerful examination of life values, is also a highlight.

"I'll Take Love Over Money," in which Aaron delivers rap verses over a groove reminiscent of the Ghostbusters theme, doesn't quite work. But the honky-tonk hilarity of "Five Gallon Tear" sure does - and speaking of honky-tonks, check out "Honky Tonk If You Love Country," a twangy gem from a guy who sings about cinder-block beer joints as if he's actually seen the inside of one.

For swooners, there's "Love Like There's No Tomorrow," written and performed with Aaron's missus, Thea Tippin. Romantics with less of a sweet tooth should try the lusty stomper "If Her Lovin' Don't Kill Me."

Aaron still stands apart as the rare workingman's champion who's not afraid to wear his heart on his cutaway sleeve. That's why Stars & Stripes deserves a salute.

-- Larry Wayne Clark

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