World Wide Open

by: Love and Theft

There have been numerous challengers over the years for the country-pop heavyweight title held by Rascal Flatts, but none of them really had a shot at dethroning the Flatts gang. Love and Theft, who are actually labelmates of Rascal Flatts' (via Lyric Street's sister imprint, Carolwood Records), have what it takes to bring down the champs. The trio -- Brian Bandas, Eric Gunderson, and Stephen Barker Liles, all of whom play guitar and share lead vocal duties -- create silky sweet harmonies that are as addictive as dime store taffy. Love and Theft's debut, the 11-track World Wide Open, is teeming with tasty pop melodies and delicious hooks. Bandas, Gunderson, and Liles had a hand in co-writing every song on the disc. The spirited first single, "Runaway" -- a piece of pop finery that is pure ear candy -- and "Can't Go Back" -- a '70s tinted country rocker that recalls Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles -- have serious crossover potential. Bandas, Gunderson, and Liles surround themselves with some of Nashville's best session players, including banjo ace Kevin Haynie (a solid singer/songwriter in his own right) who adds a bit of old-school seasoning to "Can't Go Back." "Slow Down" is one of those compositions that has "hit" written all over it. The harmonies, the lyrics, the music, and the production come together in such a way as to create a perfect song storm. "It's Up to You" contains a memorable chorus that seeps into your brain and rattles around for hours afterward. Love and Theft have managed to craft a debut that makes them contenders right out of the gate. ~ Todd Sterling

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