Cody McCarver

Cody McCarver

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Confederate Railroad may be a Southern rock band, but on his own, keyboard player Cody McCarver aims at the mainstream of contemporary country on his self-titled album. McCarver has a resonant tenor-baritone and a Tennessee Southern accent, and the songs sound like Hank Williams, Jr. castoffs, full of braggadocio ("Country Badass" is one title) and tough-guy heartbreak. His only songwriting contribution is the leadoff track, "Through God's Eyes," which has the advantage of some real autobiography (like one of the characters in it, McCarver's father was jailed for murdering his wife's lover), but still comes across as simpleminded Southern homespun philosophy. Recording at the Capitol Tower in Los Angeles, McCarver does give his take to some slightly pop-oriented material, including the celebrity-conscious "Sunset Boulevard" and two songs directly adapted from the pop/rock realm. He's one for two in those selections. "Chosen One," aka the theme from The Sopranos, with its opening lines, "Woke up this morning/Got yourself a gun," seems custom-made for a country treatment and works well. But Rod Stewart's icky '70s seduction ballad "Tonight's the Night" is no less icky as sung by McCarver. That's it for the innovations here. But this album serves as a reminder that, anytime Toby Keith gets tired of working, there's someone waiting in the wings.

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