by: Pat Green

Pat Green's music can be described as one part Texas singer/songwriter and one part arena-friendly pop/rock with a rootsy twist, sort of a fusion of Robert Earl Keen and Hootie & the Blowfish, which might sound like a slight until you consider the level of craft both acts put into their music. Pat Green became a major star in Texas on the strength of his engaging live show and a handful of self-released and distributed albums he made in the '90s, but he hasn't been able to conquer the record business nationwide with quite the same panache as he did in the Lone Star State, and Cannonball, his fourth major label effort (and tenth overall) finds him shifting gears a bit as he jumps from Universal to his new corporate home at BNA/BMG. While Green's tales of life in Regular Guy Land cover the same sort of territory as usual -- love that feels really good when it works, love that feels kinda sad when it doesn't, and life with his buddies and family below the Mason Dixon line -- Green has a noticeably harder rock & roll edge than in the past (or least what passes for a rock & roll edge in mainstream country), and his vocals suggest he's been listening to a lot of classic heartland rock these days (which, since he's working with the producer who made some of John Mellencamp's best records, makes sense). Green has the voice and personality to make the more direct approach work, his band seems to enjoy having the opportunity to tear a little deeper into the material, and "Virginia Belle" is a great single that suggests Counting Crows on a vacation in Texas (which in this case is a good thing). But most of the time, Cannonball loses a share of the easygoing charm and simple emotional clarity that's marked Green's best work, and the greater warmth and friendliness of his earlier material is missed. Cannonball is still the work of a singer and songwriter who put a lot of sweat and honest labor into this album, and the effort isn't wasted, but Green's music here lacks some of the small-town humanity that made him memorable in the first place; a turn of events that might make some fans uneasy. ~ Mark Deming

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