Among the greatest fallacies perpetuated by the producers and judges of American Idol is the idea that sixth-season contestant Phil Stacey is some kind of country singer. Nothing in Stacey's early performances suggested that he had a familiarity with country music -- he seemed more comfortable singing Edwin McCain than he did LeAnn Rimes -- but he was easily categorized, so when country week finally rolled around, the show shoved him into that box, based more on his background than his talents. Born in Kentucky, Stacey is the son of a minister who was enlisted in the Navy when he auditioned for Idol, and during that very audition his wife gave birth to their second daughter -- in other words, he seemed to cover all the crucial bases of country music, from love of God and family to love of his country. The only thing is, Stacey had absolutely no feel for country music, not even country-pop, a problem that's far too glaring on his eponymous 2008 major-label debut. Produced by Wayne Kirkpatrick -- a professional songwriter and producer who has helmed albums by Amy Grant, Little Big Town, Wynonna Judd, and Michael W. Smith -- Phil Stacey wisely opts out of hardcore country in favor of a crossover sound heavily inspired by Rascal Flatts, whose leader, Gary LeVox, co-wrote the first single here, "If You Didn't Love Me." Such an emphasis on pop would seem to be an ideal situation for Stacey, but even in this slick setting -- heavy ballads and inoffensive pop tunes that feel like ballads even if the tempo is a little faster -- he can't pull it off as he's not a country singer, he's a glee-club singer posing as country. His voice is too high and smooth, he over-enunciates the lyrics, and he's too earnest, overselling the lyrics, which only emphasizes how calculated the album is, how it has a song for the family, a song for God, a song for the troops, hitting all the bases that make Phil Stacey easy to market as a country singer, at least according to the laws of Idol. Throughout it all, Stacey hardly comes across as a bad guy -- there's a certain naïve sweetness behind his overly coached performances -- but that only makes the record harder to take because its failure isn't on his shoulders, it's on the music biz machine itself, the people who should have known better than to try to turn this guy next door into the star he so clearly isn't.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine