Billy Ray Cyrus

Home at Last

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Seizing the opportunity for a comeback opened by his daughter's success as Hannah Montana -- and his accompanying role as Hannah's father -- Billy Ray Cyrus gives it his all on Home at Last, his tenth solo album but the first one to really seem to count since the glory days of "Achy Breaky Heart." Smartly, he avoids any boot-scooting shuffles and pitches the record directly toward the housewives who danced the night away to his big hit and now raise daughters who watch Hannah Montana. This means there's not much of the lean country that marked his very good 2006 set Wanna Be Your Joe but instead a lot of earnest midtempo tunes and ballads, along with covers of such standards as "Brown Eyed Girl" and "You've Got a Friend." It's modern-day adult contemporary music, but it's not given the drippy, saccharine, and synthesized arrangements that made AC music stultifying in the late '90s. Instead, it's stripped-down and direct, never sounding too slick but never sounding like something that could be mistaken for anything other than commercial adult pop, either. If the album suffers a little bit from a sense of sleepy sameness -- it sure could use more numbers like the working-class anthem "The Buffalo" or the mildly driving anthemic rocker "You Can't Lose Me" -- on a track-by-track basis, it's sturdy and Cyrus is always likeable, never pushing too hard and always sounding like a warmer, more genuine singer than he did at the peak of his fame in 1992. Make no mistake about it, Home at Last is as safe and comforting as its title suggests (which may indeed be a let-down for those that liked the sly, wily nature of Wanna Be Your Joe), but it's to Cyrus' credit that he pulls it off like an old pro, which is what makes this not only a handsome commercial comeback but a deserved one.

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