Various Artists

Totally Country, Vol. 4

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The Totally Country series, like its pop-oriented NOW counterpart, rises and falls on whether the time it chronicles was any good for hit singles. Sometimes, there's only a handful of engaging tunes, other times well over half of the featured tracks are first-rate. Totally Country, Vol. 4 fits into the latter category, filled with songs that are terribly entertaining long after they've been played to death on the radio. While some of these songs are merely enjoyable, some qualify as instant classics. In particular, there's Toby Keith's warm, funny honky tonk anthem "I Love This Bar," Gretchen Wilson's kicking "Redneck Woman," Big & Rich's gonzo "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)," and a pair of beach-ready tunes in Kenny Chesney's "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" and Blake Shelton's "Some Beach." These are songs that define what modern country is, and when combined with first-rate entries from Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, John Michael Montgomery, George Strait, and Montgomery Gentry -- and not to mention solid tunes from Clay Walker, Sara Evans, los Lonely Boys, and Buddy Jewell -- this is easily the best Totally Country yet. If you want to know what mainstream country sounded like in the middle of the 2000s, turn here.

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