Chris Young

Neon

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If Chris Young has a signature, it’s his plainspoken likableness. Not the flashiest of singers, Young certainly isn’t lacking in personality, something that goes a long way in distinguishing his clean commercial country. Walking a thin line between hard country and its sweeter pop cousin, Young sells hooks and sentimentality without pushing too hard, leaving just enough grit and twang to keep his country grounded. He perfects this trick on his third album, 2011’s Neon, a sturdy collection of tunes with no frills but plenty of appeal. Young often does slip into some sappiness, reminiscing about times spent fixing the car with his father over a “Flashlight” and remember words of wisdom from his granddaddy on “Old Love Feels Now,” yet his writer's eye for telling details and his conversational delivery prevent the tunes from getting treacly, a trait that also comes in handy on the love songs and heartbroken honky tonk, the latter providing such fine moments as the first single “Tomorrow” and the barroom ballad title track. That ease also surfaces on the livelier moments, when he lays back on the sunny “I Can Take It from There,” when he rides a bouncing backroads groove on “Lost,” and when he kicks up some serious twang on “Save Water, Drink Beer,” whose sense of humor recalls Brad Paisley. Unlike Paisley or other peers like Keith Urban and Blake Shelton, Chris Young has no grander ambitions than being a reliable pure country singer, one who aims to please without pandering, one who stays country without resisting the charms of a strong melody. If Neon does anything, it proves that Young can manage this delicate balance all the while seeming like it’s no trouble at all.

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