Strong

There are singers for whom the pop-vs.-country debate doesn't apply - Tracy's voice is so twangy, there's even a twang to his twang. That settled, with a winning set of songs and a sympathetic musical setting he's good to go.

He gets both on Strong, his eighth album and first in two-and-a-half years. The hit "Paint Me a Birmingham" is the most immediate pleasure, and thoughtful tunes like "Stones" add depth. But the rowdy "Sawdust on Her Halo" is enough to make you wish Tracy would kick up his heels a little more often.

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Other performers include Rodney Crowell, Patty Griffin and Jason Isbell.