Mark Chesnutt

Heard It in a Love Song

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After releasing a long series of cookie-cutter Nash-Vegas albums through most of the '90s, Mark Chesnutt took a welcome step back to his honky tonk roots on his fine 2004 album Savin' the Honky Tonk, and while Heard It in a Love Song lacks the hard country feel of that disc, it's a solid set that confirms the man's musical instincts are back on track. Heard It in a Love Song is primarily devoted to covers of tunes associated with the likes of Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, Johnny Paycheck and Waylon Jennings, with Chesnutt focusing on love (both good and bad) most of the time. Chesnutt's sure got a way with a weeper -- "A Day in the Life of a Fool" and "Apartment #9" practically demand a beer to cry in -- and he brings a warmth and weathered sentimentality to "Dreaming My Dreams with You" and "Goodbye Comes Hard for Me" that's touching without getting saccharine. While the cover of the Marshall Tucker Band's "Heard it in a Love Song" is the slickest thing here, it still gives off an honest barroom ambience, and the rest of this album compares favorably to Chesnutt's great early work. At less than 31 minutes, Heard It in a Love Song's only flaw is its length -- with Chesnutt sounding this good, most fans will wish there were another few songs on this set, but what's here is modern-day honky tonk served strong and straight and sounding mighty fine.

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