Josh Kelley won't be able to outrun the John Mayer comparisons. For the Ride Home, the young Mississippian's easygoing Hollywood debut, was helmed by John Alagia, the guy behind Mayer's Room for Squares and the Dave Matthews Band's Crash, among others. Kelley sports a similar flair for phrasing and first-person confession, too, especially on "Angeles" and "Travelin'." Ride Home also tends slightly toward the bland -- "I Saw You" is like a highway exit with 14 enticing yet utterly homogenous fast-food offerings. Thankfully, dollops of Kelley's homespun charm keep things interesting. Opener and lead single "Amazing" is an upbeat, dizzy number warmed by Kelley's husky expressive vocals and an organ solo. The song's similarity to Jason Mraz' "Remedy (I Won't Worry)" isn't surprising -- Alagia produced that one, too. But that's all right. For the Ride Home ends up succeeding for some of the same reasons Mraz and Mayer did -- like them, Kelley has a disheveled friendliness that's hard to resist. He's a top-shelf, road-trip conversationalist, looks great in a wrinkled oxford, and settles comfortably somewhere between sensitive and upbeat. His five o'clock shadow never gets to ten, and he's looking at you with amusement over the lip of his coffee mug. While lighthearted stuff like "Perfect 10" and the single certainly please, it's actually the quieter material that's most promising here. "Amen" is an elegiac number that suggests, well, Seal, while the arrangement for emotional standout "Home to Me" is wisely pared down to Kelley's faintly cracking vocal, an acoustic guitar, and a pretty wash of atmospherics. Taken with the rootsy, winking "Faces" ("The forecast calls for rain to take away the day/I guess we'll just have to stay inside the room...."), the track illustrates Kelley's deft, broken-in touch, and proves he's much more than just another square.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus