The title Five Star Dive Bar truly conjures the appropriate image to represent the traditional honky tonk sounds on the debut King Country album. The group's founder and lead singer, Frank Sullivan, grew up in North Carolina with both country and funk influences, country becoming the dominant force after hearing George Jones on the radio one day. From there, Sullivan pursued the craft of songwriting while the love of performing in front of a live audience beckoned him to the stage. Thus was born the seven-piece country band King Country. The album's primary strength lies in its songwriting. They are all simple stories about simple people and their country roots. This time-honored style worked for the likes of Merle Haggard and will probably never lose appeal to lovers of country at its most pure. With cuts like "Hillbilly Honky Tonkin'" and the title cut, what else can you expect? Sullivan teamed up with Kristi Manna, writer of the Blake Shelton hit "Austin," for this album, so obviously the talent is there. Sullivan himself delivers with the bittersweet resolve in the story of "I Just Smile." It is no secret, though, that songwriting is only one part of the equation, the performance being the other. The group does a decent job bringing life to the songs, but the bottom line is that the material just doesn't inspire much excitement. Some element of the emotional roller coaster is woven throughout, but not necessarily with great finesse. Sullivan as a vocalist has a distinct sound, but his songwriting is undoubtedly the stronger gift. Overall, one gets the feeling that King Country's live performance might incite the desired response that the CD doesn't. While Five Star Dive Bar doesn't deliver a five-star performance, the album is a firm foundation on which to build.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Cohoon