Keith Urban

The Ranch

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Technically, the Ranch was a country trio consisting of Peter Clarke, Jerry Flowers, and future superstar Keith Urban. In practice, though, it was a group of equals to the same extent as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, which is to say, it wasn't a group of equals at all. Clarke provides drums and percussion on this debut album, Flowers plays bass, and Urban does everything else. That means singing lead vocals, playing a variety of stringed instruments, handling keyboards, and co-writing nine of the album's 12 songs. The album is essentially a showcase for Urban, the up-and-coming Aussie performer who left his homeland, moved to Nashville, and would eventually become one of the city's biggest stars. Urban is a triple threat here: he writes songs steeped in country traditions (but avoids music that's purely traditionalist), sings them with confidence, and, most impressively, picks a guitar authoritatively. His pop/country/rock sound occasionally recalls the 1980s style of Rodney Crowell, particularly on one of the songs he didn't write, "Just Some Love." His is an approach that takes the history of country into consideration while also looking forward. He may plead "Hank Don't Fail Me Now" in one song title, but he never really sounds like Hank Williams. He sounds modern instead, and the album reveals a broad, budding talent not far from fully flowering. Not surprisingly, after the commercial failure of this release, the Ranch broke up and Urban went solo, breaking through to success shortly after.

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