The 2003 release of Wave on Wave marked a turning point and dividing line in Pat Green’s career. Some of his early fans considered the album a sell-out and criticized the Lone Star native and independent artist for signing with a big label, hooking up with a pop producer, and diluting his roots. Others saw Wave as a sign of maturity and growth. I’m firmly in the latter camp, and so Green’s latest effort doesn’t turn me off on principle but doesn’t exactly twirl my toes either.

lup_1Green has once again hooked up with a mainstream producer – Dan Huff (Keith Urban, Dixie Chicks) – on a big label and created a slick batch of material that softens but doesn’t douse Green’s natural edginess and zestful enthusiasm. Green co-writes most of the songs, which is good and bad – it stretches him in places, homogenizes him in others. For instance, the album’s co-written opener “Footsteps of Our Fathers” is reminiscent of Wave on Wave and is an excellent rock-infused barnburner that will surely kick ass in concert. “In It For The Money,” “Country Star,” and several other songs feature a brackish Green combining humor, musical muscle, and a hell-raiser’s sensibility. In others, such as “In This World,” he effectively explores his poet’s mind. While some fans might prefer he do nothing but sing three-chord songs about getting drunk and eating tacos, it’s his contrasts – country boy, rocker, thinker, mindless beer guzzler – that make him interesting. “Let Me” is being pushed as the single, and it’s an OK if predictably soaring ballad that’s tailor-made for pop radio.

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On the down side, hooking up with major labels, pop producers, and co-writers can lead to traps, and Green can’t help but get ensnared. The title song, for instance, is a nose-pinching, reeking example of Nashville Songwriting 101 For The Patriotic But Mush-Brained Country Fan. (Sample lyrics: “I’m for Detroit factory workers … Texas margaritas … inner city teachers …” and so on. Uh, great, Pat, thanks for sharing the obvious.) Green didn’t even co-write the damn song, so why he’d burden an otherwise decent album with that pap is a mystery that only his producer, accountant, or hairdresser knows.

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