Joe Diffie

Tougher Than Nails

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Joe Diffie left Sony after 2001's In Another World, and three years later he released Tougher Than Nails, his first independent album. The switch from major to indie hasn't altered the essential sound of Diffie's music -- he's still a good-time neo-traditionalist, as comfortable with a twangy country-rocker as he is with a sweet ballad -- but there are some subtle changes. He co-writes five of the 12 songs, the most since 1999's A Night to Remember, and he co-produces the album, keeping the sound bright and accessible, but just a little more country than current contemporary country radio constructs. Apart from that, there's nothing new, but there doesn't need to be, since Diffie is still a satisfying straight-ahead country singer, capable of delivering solid records on a regular basis. Tougher Than Nails is no exception to the rule, and while only a handful of songs truly stand apart from the pack -- the sentimental Jesus tale in the title track, the nostalgic "Nothin' But the Radio," the rolling and summery "Movin' Train," and, best of all, the rowdy barroom raver "The More You Drink, the Better I Look" -- there are no bad tunes, either. Of course, that makes it no different than most Diffie records, but that's hardly something to complain about, since this is a solid and enjoyable collection of neo-traditional country, as enjoyable as most records he's made.

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