Collin Raye

Twenty Years and Change

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It's been a long time between new studio albums from Collin Raye. His last was in October of 2001, when Can't Back Down closed out his contract with Epic Records. Four years later, he's on an independent -- Aspirion, which is distributed by Navarre -- and has his long-awaited collection of new material in Twenty Years and Change. Unlike a lot of artists who return to independent status, Raye has not stripped down his sound or returned to his roots -- although it could be argued that the slick, ballad-heavy country-pop on this album is indeed his roots, since that's what gave him his biggest hits and sustained popularity. Although there's a couple of lively moments here, such as the winning "Hurricane Jane," this is a calm, gentle, polished record that sounds as if it could have fit onto adult contemporary pop stations in the mid-'90s; after all, he does cover Survivor's power ballad "The Search Is Over." Which doesn't make it a bad listen -- it's professionally made and well performed by Raye, who sounds a bit older but still in good voice -- but it is a little samey and safe, sometimes verging on background music. That may not make for a particularly engaging listen, but it is a friendly one, and fans who have been waiting nearly half a decade for Collin Raye to come back should enjoy this, even if it's unlikely it will win him new fans.

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