Phil Vassar

American Child

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What makes Phil Vassar a true find in today's Nashville climate is his rock-solid ability to pen a convincing song and then turn around and sing it in an equally convincing manner. His writing has been embraced by everyone from Alan Jackson to Cledus T. Judd to Engelbert Humperdinck. Vassar's sophomore album on Arista Records, American Child, is exactly what he wants it to be: 12 songs that he had a hand in writing and knew he could convey to his audience. That translates into some catchy lines, a few unconventional choruses, and Vassar's fervent belief in every note. The album offers both powerful ballads like "I Thought I Never Would Forget" and "Stand Still" tempered with the humor of "Athens Grease," the story of a Georgia mechanic Vassar dubs the "redneck Picasso of the manual transmission." The title cut is probably some of Vassar's best songwriting, with plenty of good ole' American imagery. On the downside, some of the cuts just don't merit space on this album. That's no slap to Vassar's songwriting; the best of the best can't write top quality every time they pick up the pen. Here, it's more a question of weeding out and replacing tunes such as the generically bland "I'll Be the One" that ends the album or the confusing "Forgettin's So Long." That said, American Child is a solid, enjoyable effort with a few flaws.

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