In the Ranch

by: Keith Urban

Technically, the Ranch is a country music trio consisting of Peter Clarke, Jerry Flowers, and Keith Urban, but in practice, it is a group of equals to about the extent that the Jimi Hendrix Experience was, which is to say, not at all. Clarke provides drums and percussion, Flowers plays bass and sings background vocals, and Urban does everything else. That means singing lead and background vocals and playing a variety of stringed instruments and keyboards, as well as taking co-writing credits on nine of the 12 tracks. The album is a showcase for Urban, the up-and-coming Down Under performer who moved to Nashville to be nearer the music he loved. Urban is a triple threat: he writes songs steeped in country traditions (yet not really traditionalist), he sings them with confidence, and, most impressively, picks a guitar authoritatively. His pop/country/rock sound occasionally recalls the 1980s style of Rodney Crowell, particularly on one of the songs he didn't write, "Just Some Love." His is an approach that takes the history of country into consideration, but looks forward. He may plead "Hank Don't Fail Me Now" in one song title, but he never really sounds like Hank Williams. He is perhaps most comfortable just picking fast, as he does on the instrumental "Clutterbilly," but the album reveals a budding talent not far from fully flowering. Not surprisingly, after the commercial failure of this release, the Ranch broke up and Urban went solo, breaking through to success shortly after. [The 2004 reissue of the album adds two bonus tracks (a polite cover of the Stealers Wheel classic "Stuck in the Middle" and "Billy") as well as the videos for "Walkin' the Country" and "Clutterbilly".] ~ William Ruhlmann

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