Big Kenny recorded his debut album, Live a Little, for Hollywood Records in 1999 and it was scheduled to be released that fall, but the label pushed it back till 2000 due to scheduling problems, and from there, it simply fell off the radar. Months passed and it stayed in the label's vaults, and eventually Big Kenny Alphin was let loose. A while later, he went off with Lonestar singer John Rich -- who co-wrote three songs on Live a Little and did some background vocals -- to form Big & Rich, who unexpectedly took country by storm in 2004 as both performers (with their crossover hit "Save a Horse [Ride a Cowboy]") and as the producers/songwriters behind Gretchen Wilson and her hit "Redneck Woman." In the wake of all this success, Hollywood hauled out Live a Little and released it in March of 2005. Frankly, it's easy to see why the label didn't release the album -- it's too damn weird to market, particularly to an audience that has no idea who Big Kenny is. It's a swirling, pastel-colored collage of psychedelia, bombastic album rock, swinging British Invasion harmonies, and post-alternative pop, all packaged in an ultraslick, cavernous production and fronted by Kenny, who sings every song, regardless of its sound or sentiment, in his best Billy Murray lounge-singer croon. While this is certainly interesting, often intriguing, and usually melodic, it's not particularly commercial -- and not just because it doesn't easily fit into any radio format in either 1999 or 2005, but because the sound is too slick for the musical ideas and because Kenny's baritone histrionics are both hard to take seriously and simply hard to take. This an odd album that has its heart in major-label studios and its head elsewhere, and while that doesn't make for "bad" music, it certainly makes for an album with little commercial potential -- unless, of course, the artist behind it is already a star. Now that Big Kenny is indeed a star, Live a Little can finally see the light of day, which is how it should be -- he has a fan base that will buy it and now Hollywood can recoup its investment. Plus, it's an interesting record -- maybe not an entirely successful one, but interesting all the same. At the very least, it's proof that Big & Rich really never have been simpatico with the Nashville system and are just a couple of goofball hustlers who kept running their game until they finally got lucky.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine