Bobby Pinson

Man Like Me

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Bobby Pinson isn't quite a roughneck rebel, isn't quite a contemporary country crooner. He falls between those two extremes on Man Like Me, his 2005 debut for RCA Nashville, and the results are, perhaps not unsurprisingly, a little confused, alternating between ragged but right confessionals and cloying, calculated sap. This is a record that begins with heavy, distorted guitars on the fist-pumping "I'm Fine Either Way" and ends with an unlisted bonus track of a plaintive acoustic reading of the schoolhouse standard "Jesus Loves Me," complete with a group of kids murmuring along on the fadeout. Throughout Man Like Me, Pinson yo-yos between these two extremes, at times writing good, restless numbers like "Nothin' Happens in This Town" or the carefully observed "Ford Fairlane," but just as often penning cloying ditties like the born-again anthem "One More Believer" or the string of clich├ęs on "Don't Ask Me How I Know," where he passes on such wisdom as "Sell your truck while it's still running" and "Don't drink the water in Mexico." To his credit, Pinson co-writes all of the 11 songs on his debut, and these songs have the seeds of an interesting persona: he has an appealingly ragged voice that fits the rougher side of his material, and with producer Joe Sciafe, he can make some lean, vigorous music. The problem is, he sounds like he's trying to cover too many bases on Man Like Me, to try to be a rowdy outlaw while preserving a church-going image. Plenty of artists have partied on Saturday night and repented Sunday morning, but Pinson has the tendency on Man Like Me to sound too studied on good-time tunes like "Started a Band" and on his sentimental songs. At his best, he dispenses with that kind of commercial condescension and reveals himself to be an observant songwriter and a captivating singer. He doesn't hit the mark enough on Man Like Me to make it a success, but he hits it often enough to make you wonder where he's going to go next.

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