Jake Owen

Easy Does It

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Everything about Jake Owen is a testament to Nashville's image of an everyday all-American. He has an ordinary name, he's hunky but not threatening, he has facial hair as sculpted as his biceps, he has a warm, friendly voice that is as suited for sentiment as it is for hoisting a frosty bottle of American beer. There's not a thing that's surprising about Jake Owen, either on his 2006 debut or this, his 2009 follow-up, that replicates the formula of his first to the letter, going so far as to offer a new version of "Eight Second Ride," presumably following the assumption that if it produced a modest success the first time around, things will get better the next time. Musically, that's pretty much true: Easy Does It gets the balance of sports bar anthems, radio ballads, and Sunday sentiment right, hitting every cliché perhaps a bit too on the nose but effectively nonetheless. Complaining that this is a bit too familiar is beside the point because this is music meant to be familiar, to fit into pre-carved niches for Friday nights and Monday mornings, and it works not because the songs are great -- at their best they're sturdy, at their worst they're workaday -- but because the production is clean and uncluttered, focused directly on Jake Owen's warm, welcoming voice. Owen doesn't really look like a guy next door -- he's too hunky by far -- but he does sound like the homecoming king from a small town, a guy comfortable with posing in the spotlight without looking like he's posing, and it's this easy charm that turns Easy Does It into an effective piece of country-pop product.

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