Me and My Gang – Rascal Flatts
The fourth effort from Rascal Flatts sold more than 721,000 copies its first week out in stores. Only 24 other acts total have topped that kind of sales feat. This trio is on roll, including on the radio. “What Hurts the Most,” the leadoff single and fastest climber in Rascal Flatts history, recently went to No. 1 on the airplay chart.
The chart-topper is not the only hit on this disc. “Yes, I Do” blends romance with reggae rhythms. For the first time, the guys teamed with Faith Hill and Keith Urban producer Dann Huff, and the collaboration produced a touching song about Alzheimer’s, “Ellsworth.” B

White Trash with Money – Toby Keith
No doubt about it, Toby Keith does it his way – including the naming of his albums. After an insult was thrown at his daughter, Toby ran with it, naming this album after the slam.

Now that Keith ain’t answering to fancy-suited record execs anymore (this album’s on his own Show Dog Records), the Oklahoman has even more creative control on the songs he picks, which include “Runnin’ Block.” This track is about bedding an unattractive woman for the benefit of a buddy. He does an outstanding job on “Too Far This Time,” and gets the whole thing rocking with “Get Drunk and Be Somebody.” A-

Leave the Light On – Jeff Bates
It took a heckuva long time for Jeff Bates’ sophomore album to come out. But Jeff’s whole life and rise to fame hasn’t been an overnight success story anyway. The former drug addict and convict first burst onto the country charts in 2003 with “The Love Song.”

The Bunker Hill, Miss., native covers the classic “Rub It In,” and it’s a lot of fun to groove to. “I Can’t Write That” and “Mama Was a Lot Like Jesus” are songs that tie into Bates’ rough-edged background. “Good People” was the album’s first single. It shows that even when folks are legally bad, they can still be legally decent. This album once again has Bates bellowing out songs in his soulful, sincere way – much like his fellow Mississippian Conway Twitty, with whom Jeff is often compared. A

Stand Still, Look Pretty – The Wreckers
The Wreckers bring together two young, fearless female singer-songwriter-acoustic guitarists – Grammy-winning, platinum-selling Michelle Branch (“Everywhere”) and collaborator Jessica Harp. The Wreckers’ debut album blends Branch’s pop-rock sensibility with Harp’s country-folk style.

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“Toward the end of my last solo tour I was trying to figure out what else I might want to do, so I started thinking about making the organic singer/songwriter country type of record I’d always wanted to do,” Branch says.

The debut single, “Leave the Pieces,” is already a hit on country radio. Its up-tempo acoustic feel will make you roll down the cab window and enjoy the summer breeze. The album’s other top tracks include “Tennessee”, “Cigarettes” and the fun “My Oh My.” B+

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