Chuck Wicks

Starting Now

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It's little wonder that Chuck Wicks was chosen as a member of Fox's short-lived country music reality show Nashville: blessed with hunky but unthreatening good looks, he seems to come from central casting, the ideal Southern heartthrob for the late 2000s. His 2008 debut Starting Now is a collection of pretty, unthreatening music to match his looks, filled with songs that make Rascal Flatts seem like a gang of renegades. Wicks is comfortable with his softer side, whether it's on the power ballad "Stealing Cinderella" or, better still, the breezy, laid-back "When You're Single," a minor soft rock gem worthy of early-'80s Dirt Band. It would have been nice if there was a bit more of this light touch on Starting Now and less of the artificially inflated arena-country that dominates the album, but Wicks is such an easygoing nice guy that he helps make these too-big productions feel a little more human, even if the glossy sound tends to overwhelm the songs. This makes Starting Now an uneven debut, but the best moments -- "Stealing Cinderella," the insistent "She's Gonna Hurt Somebody" (the only real rocker here), the album-closing pair "Mine All Mine" and "Man of the House" which share a relaxed vibe with that quite wonderful "When You're Single" -- suggest that Wicks could have a very nice second album in him if he and his producers decide not to dress him up in such ostentatious sounds. Despite his good looks, such flashy sounds don't fit his style.

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