Josh Gracin

We Weren't Crazy

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Despite the success of contemporary vocalist Josh Gracin's self-titled debut album -- the set landed three Top Five singles (including "Nothin' to Lose," which hit the top spot) and went gold -- the former American Idol contestant (and fourth-place finisher in the second season) faced a bigger test on his sophomore effort because of a fickle marketplace. Gracin began to record a follow-up album to be released in 2006, tentatively called I Keep Coming Back, but pulled the plug, citing a need to record all new material. Four years is a long time out of the limelight in popular music in the 21st century. Luckily for him, country audiences tend to be loyal--even if radio programmers are not. Gracin teamed with producer Marty Williams and engineer Bart Morris on some cuts and Brett James and Luke Wooten on others; there are also a few holdovers from the studio band on his debut -- namely bassist Mike Brignardello, backing vocalist Russell Terrell, and the ubiquitous steel guitarist Dan Dugmore. A nice addition here is veteran studio ace Matt Rollings on keyboards. Gracin is one of those big-voiced singers who gets to his tenor register effortlessly, and he makes the most of it on power ballads and storming anthems that have enough punch--and story--in them to carry the listener along. His voice drips with sincerity. The title cut, written by Gracin, is a standout. The enormously compressed guitars climb and wail, and Dugmore's steel has distortion careening over a multi-voiced chorus with a ringing 12-string and big drums. It's the album's first single. Blair Daly's "I Don't Want to Live" follows the same basic formula, and it works seamlessly, with a lonesome fiddle touch at the tail end of the each line that trails into the beginning of the next. The breeziness of "Telluride," by Brett James and Troy Verges, with its neo-psychedelic guitar touches and shuffling pace, has one of those fairy-tale "poor but rich with love" storylines. Ultimately, this is formulaic contemporary country, but that isn't necessarily bad; its fans are always hungry for more stories, more hooks, and big choruses. Gracin does it well here; if anyone has a chance of making lightning strike twice it's him.

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