March 01, 2004

BLUE DOGS -- Halos and Good Buys

Blue Dogs CD cover.jpg

Excess positive vibes and not enough emotional variety

Over the past 10-15 years, the music industry has seen the country genre change and mutate from the rural, heartbreaking music of the West and the South into a much slicker, sunnier and more mainstream pop style.

New influences matched with established pop and rock producers have stretched country music far beyond barn dances and pickup trucks, right into frat houses and Town Cars.

Halos and Good Buys, the latest release from South Carolina's Blue Dogs, reflects the current mood of today's country music, as the veteran act looks to ride the lighting bolt of this feel-good trend. With that focus set, the band teamed with the respected and very successful producer Don Gehman, whose credits include albums by John Mellencamp, Hootie & the Blowfish and others.

What Gehman does for the songs on Halos and Good Buys, the eighth Blue Dogs album, is apply his usual winning formula of focusing on vocal harmonies and the jangle of acoustic guitars and mandolin. Getting across the apparent "keep that head of yours up" message is strictly up to the band members, and get it across they do, to the point where the running theme turns into a marathon.

With the opener, the mid-tempo singalong "What's Wrong with Love Songs," it's easy to picture the Blue Dogs' smiles and what their CMT Flameworthy video would look like. It's a decent opener, but by the albumís midway point, there's a need for a ballad of regret or unrequited love to cleanse the pallet. That never truly happens. "Four Winds," a slower but still distinctly peppy track, is the closest the band comes to providing a change of pace. But by the next track, "Cosmic Cowboy," it's back to the smile fest -- and this time it doesn't let up.

Ultimately, the upbeat Halos and Good Buys lacks the parallel moment that most veteran country acts have based their careers. Such is the way that this album will fit in with efforts by Lonestar, Rascal Flatts and other Blue Dogs contemporaries. Songwriting and storytelling are seated in the back, while catchy hooks and good times drive the party bus.

-- By Mike Madden

Posted by medleyville at March 1, 2004 02:54 PM