Clay Aiken

Tried & True

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Clay Aiken’s charms have never been of the modern persuasion -- even when he was giving Ruben Studdard a run for his money on American Idol he seemed a throwback, either to the ‘60s when he could be singing show tunes, or to the late ‘70s when he could be singing gauche soft rock. He sang the latter on 2008’s On My Way Here, creating a record with a measure of credible modern appeal that didn’t quite turn out a hit, so he opted for his other style on 2010’s Tried & True, whose very title admits that he’s not experimenting this time around. And so he doesn’t: not only does he sing a clutch of songs that are well known and oft-repeated -- “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “It’s Only Make Believe,” “Mack the Knife,” “Unchained Melody,” “Moon River” -- he’s opting for soft, familiar arrangements, anchored by a piano and dressed with supple strings from orchestras and guitarists alike, accentuated by a dose of swinging brass. It’s handsomely tailored music that fits Aiken’s strengths quite well. Indeed, he’s never seemed more at home on a record; nothing may challenge him but he’s never straining, seeming happier singing standards than he did churning out contemporary classics on A Thousand Different Ways, winding up with something that might be the best representation yet of his peculiar charms.

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