Week Of: April 21, 2008

Idol Chatter

Of all the contestants on American Idol, the ones who've gone country, it seems, have gone the farthest. Admittedly, I pay much more attention to this format than any others, but am I wrong in believing that a show whose agenda seems to be finding America's next big pop star has inadvertently brought us some great country artists?

Speaking of inadvertent, I snatched up two CDs to listen to before my vacation last week; both turned out to be former Idol hopefuls who were decidedly country, went deep into the competition, have a military background and found their way to Lyric Street Records. Josh Gracin was a season two finalist on Idol; Phil Stacey is a season six alum. Gracin served in the Marines, Stacey was a navy man. As Dana Carvey's church lady character on "Saturday Night Live" used to say, "Coincidence? Hmmm ..." Well, I listened to Gracin's long-awaited sophomore effort, "We Weren't Crazy," back-to-back with Stacey's self-titled debut. Not surprisingly, Gracin's latest has a more familiar feel to it, and part of that is the strength of the songwriting. Brett James has four cuts on this CD and even produced six of the 11 songs. Gracin co-wrote two cuts and wrote another one himself; Jeffrey Steele co-wrote cut eight, "I Keep Coming Back," and Marcel's "Favorite State of Mind" is here, too. Remember that one? It was released as Gracin's fourth single a couple of years ago, peaking in the top 20. Oh, and remember "Telluride," the Tim McGraw album cut from 2001? That's on this collection as well, and I think Gracin does a great version of it here. The title cut, "We Weren't Crazy," currently sits at No. 25 on the R&R chart. I have no idea what the label has planned next, but the one I kept coming back to was, pardon the pun here, cut No. 8, "I Keep Coming Back." Speaking of back, I'm glad Gracin is. I think this was worth the wait.

I had to turn to a little "aided recall," as we say in radio, when trying to remember Phil Stacey on American Idol. I'm not a big watcher of the show, but I do remember seeing him absolutely nail Keith Urban's "Where the Blacktop Ends" one night. Vocally, Stacey sounds a bit more contemporary to me, and I thought the CD found its groove on the last three cuts. Right now, "If You Didn't Love Me"-- my favorite song on the CD -- is No. 34 on the R&R chart, but I also really like cut nine, "What I'm Fighting For." I repeated the last cut on the CD, "Identity" a few times, too.

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