Tracy Lawrence

Strong

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Although the album is called Strong, Tracy Lawrence sure isn't afraid to show his soft side on his eighth studio album and his first for DreamWorks after spending his career at Atlantic. Lawrence has never been among the most adventurous country singers and of all the post-Garth Brooks new traditionalists, he often avoids honky tonk grit, even though he has a nice twang in his voice that would work well on rowdier material. Nevertheless, Strong still ranks among his smoothest albums, a record dominated by ballads and where up-tempo songs are as polished as the slow ones. Not that this is a bad thing, since Lawrence does this kind of music well. There isn't as much musical variety as there is on a Kenny Chesney record, as it is divided between earnest heartache ballads, anthemic mid-tempo numbers, and the occasional mildly rock up-tempo tune. A few of these songs stand out -- the sentimental single "Paint Me a Birmingham," the honky tonk dance of "Sawdust on Her Halo," the gently insistent opener "It's All How You Look at It" -- but more than anything, this album is of a piece, a collection of professionally crafted, no-frills modern country with an adult contemporary bent. While it doesn't stand apart from the pack, either from Lawrence's other albums or those of his peers, it's a sturdy record, sure to satisfy anyone who's enjoyed his other albums.

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