Chris Cagle

My Life's Been a Country Song

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Chris Cagle says that his life is a country song in the title of his fourth album -- a claim that may well be true, but based on this 2008 album his life doesn't sound much like a country song. Cagle, like many country singers of his generation, walks the line between classic rock and mainstream country, which means there's more twang in his voice than there is in the music, no matter how many fiddles and trebly Telecasters are pumped up in the mix. Of course, this hardly represents a change of course for Cagle, who has tread this path since his debut, nor is it really a complaint: it's a statement of fact. Fortunately, Cagle has an earnest, plainspoken charm that keeps his music relatable -- it never seems pumped up for arenas, as some rock-influenced contemporary country does -- and he has to rely hard on that charm here, as he has his blandest set of songs yet. Tellingly, this is a collection that contains no originals from Cagle: every tune was penned by a pro. Some of these are quite strong -- the Rhett Akins-written "Little Sundress" is a bright, summery pop tune, the lead single "What Kinda Gone" is a sturdy slice of rocking country -- and some are simply pleasant pieces of product, like the Mellencamp-lite "No Love Songs." There may be just a little bit more of the latter than there should be, but Cagle helps sell them with his neighborly drawl -- enough for them to be casually enjoyable, if not quite memorable. That may not quite be what Cagle needs at this stage -- he hasn't had a big hit since 2004's "Chicks Dig It" and could use another -- but it's a solid double down the middle, enough to keep his batting average up even if he isn't knocking 'em out of the park.

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