Keith Urban

Be Here

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Keith Urban has been a consistent presence in the country charts since 2000, scoring eight consecutive entries as of the release of his third U.S. solo album, Be Here (the eighth being this disc's leadoff track, "Days Go By"). And there's plenty more where that came from. Unlike most other country artists, Urban doesn't restrict his albums to ten selections from the Nashville songwriting establishment. This one contains 13 songs at a generous 55-minute running time, and Urban's name is on nine of them as a co-writer. Thus, the collection can be viewed as more of a singer/songwriter effort than the usual Music City product. From that point of view, the album has a distinct storytelling arc, beginning with the carpe diem sentiments of "Days Go By" and continuing into a series of songs that celebrate life and love, notably Rodney Crowell's unabashedly romantic "Making Memories of Us," which finds Urban doing his best Crowell imitation. Suggestions of struggle begin to intrude as of "God's Been Good to Me," however -- and after seven songs, Urban abruptly changes the sound and the mood with a piano-and-strings weeper, "Tonight I Wanna Cry." "She's Gotta Be" picks up the pace, if not the mood, and Matraca Berg and Jim Collins' "Nobody Drinks Alone" brings the singer to a sodden rock bottom before he changes the subject by covering Elton John's "Country Comfort" and finally overcomes adversity in "Live to Love Another Day," then rewrites the album's opening song to look forward again on the album-closing "These Are the Days." The album-length story of optimism and perseverance in the face of romantic turmoil and alcoholic temptation is told musically with Urban's usual collection of fast-picked string instruments, including electric and acoustic guitars, banjo, mandolin, and Dobro (the last played by Bruce Bouton). It's a muscular sound indebted at least as much to rock and bluegrass as to traditional country, but it supports his light, flexible tenor and his essentially upbeat message.

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