Max Stalling

Topaz City

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A long tall Texan with a voice like George Strait (and, oddly, a distinct facial resemblance to Brian Eno, of all people), south Texas native Max Stalling has maintained a low-profile but steady career in the neo-traditionalist country scene for several years, but Topaz City is his potential breakthrough. Stalling's three previous albums were rough-edged D.I.Y. affairs, but the more polished Topaz City, his first album recorded with an outside producer in a proper studio, adds just enough of a Nashville gloss to make the pure country tunes sound a little more like something that might actually get played on contemporary country radio. Opening track "If Only the Good Die Young" throws percussion and a subtle mariachi trumpet into the mix, for example. However, even with the hook line "If only the good die young, I might live forever," the tone isn't hell-raising rebellion à la Waylon Jennings, but a more Randy Travis style of suburban-Texas gentility. Stalling has a voice for ballads, so much so that even a playful 2-step like the lyrically tongue-twisting "Ping Pong, Pool" has an easygoing sway. This is not country that rocks, but rather, country that sounds best on a too-warm, humid night out on the porch.

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