Gary Bennett

Human Condition

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Human Condition is Gary Bennett's first recording project since 2002, when he left trad-country favorites BR5-49 to try to break out of what he felt had become something of a musical rut. Although there's nothing here that will offend a die-hard country music fan, Bennett does seem to be enjoying his newfound freedom, although several songs reveal a strong undertow of heartache pulling from below (as the liner notes explain, Bennett tragically lost a good friend and a family member within a week of each other while this material was being prepared). The more upbeat tunes are lots of fun: the bouncy Texas swing and ebullient romanticism of "That's What I'm Here For" and the sonically unusual "Better Than This" are both good examples of Bennett at his best. But when his thoughts turn dark, the music becomes truly gripping, whether it's on the gently homesick "Heading Home" or on "My Illusion," a deceptively straightforward-sounding number that hides sharply observed and almost cynical lyrics behind a carefully constructed camouflage of weepy steel guitar and a soaring chorus. True, "Things That Mean a Lot to Me" sounds like Jimmy Buffett getting maudlin after a few too many margaritas, but it's pleasant enough, and it's the closest thing there is to a disappointment on this very fine album.

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