Let Them Be Little

Billy Dean

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Let Them Be Little Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Billy Dean had a bunch of hits in the early '90s, but times turned tough at the end of the decade, as personal and professional problems overwhelmed his career. He spent the better part of six years working things out, returning in 2004 with an independently recorded, independently released cover of John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." The single became a minor hit, attracting the attention of Curb, who signed him and released his comeback album, Let Them Be Little, in the spring of 2005. If his early albums suffered from his desire to be everything to everyone, Let Them Be Little showcases an artist who knows exactly what he is: namely, an achingly sensitive, middle-of-the-road crooner chronicling everyday life for the red states of the U.S. of A. For example, the title track is a slick, maudlin ode to parenthood that rivals Bob Carlisle's "Butterfly Kisses" in its saccharine sentiments and cloying melody. It fits comfortably next to the three odes to longtime love and domestic bliss, plus the one languid ballad about a beautiful wedding, that make up the first half of the record -- the sweet and slick half, the one about the life Dean is living now. The second half dwells on the past, chronicling some of the hard times since his last record as he sings about good loves gone bad and a race to the bottom, plus a couple of nostalgic looks back to the past (topped of by re-recordings of two previous hits, "Somewhere in My Broken Heart" and "Billy the Kid"). According to all of the press surrounding the release of Let Them Be Little, Dean put everything he had into this record, conceiving it as his last great chance at a career, which may explain its curious mix of earnest, clichéd lyrical platitudes and glossy, commercially minded clichéd music. It's everyday music about everyday things, which will surely appeal to listeners looking for a soundtrack that doggedly details all the mundane parts of their lives -- and if you like any of the singles here, particularly "Let Them Be Little" or "This Is the Life," you will certainly like the rest of the album, since it simply serves up more of the same -- but the problem with being so stubbornly ordinary in your music is that the music itself winds up ordinary and, ultimately, forgettable.

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