Kenny Rogers

American Classic Songbook [Artemis]

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As the title of his 2006 Artemis album American Classic Songbook makes clear, Kenny Rogers attempts to replicate the success Rod Stewart has had with his Great American Songbook series with this collection of 12 standards. It has the same conceit of a rock-era pop vocalist tackling classic, pre-rock & roll pop songs; has the same hushed, relaxed atmosphere, and even shares five of the 12 songs Stewart has covered over the years on his Songbooks. True, when standards are this standard, it's inevitable that there would be some crossover between American Classic Songbook and Great American Songbook, or any collection of classic American popular songs, but Rogers does stick to the predictable on his album. Even when he branches out into the late '50s and '60s with "Crazy" and "I Can't Help Falling in Love," he sings songs that have been recorded countless times, so there is an air of familiarity to this record, which is reflected not only in the song selection, but in the hazy, lazy arrangements that murmur behind Rogers' subdued vocals. As predictable as all of this may be, American Classic Songbook is by no means embarrassing -- Rogers gives casually assured performances, never oversinging the songs, and his warm voice is a better fit for this material than Stewart's, which makes it hard not to wish that this album had the musical punch that Stewart's records do. It's that lack of musicality -- the way that the album sounds as if Rogers is singing over pre-recorded backing tracks -- that will keep this from being a crossover along the lines of Stewart's albums, but the album is pleasant mood music, which may please many of Rogers' dedicated fans.

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