Music reviews

Bucky Covington – Bucky Covington
Rockingham, N.C.’s Bucky Covington was a finalist on American Idol Season 5, finishing a respectable eighth on the show. The Tar Heel’s flexible voice made him a fan favorite. Covington, 29, says his style of music is “country, with as much rock in it as I can get away with.” His TV success led to a Nashville record deal, and this self-titled debut is an impressive entry.

“A Different World,” the first single, is a great song about the good ol’ days. Some way, somehow, Covington and the rest of the world pre-1990 coped with having only three TV channels and the whippings from Daddy’s belt. Sawyer Brown front man Mark Miller, whose son was a huge Bucky Covington fan on Idol, produced the Lyric Street release. The influence of Southern rock on the singer is apparenton many of the tracks. “Carolina Blue” and “Ain’t No Thing” are among the CD’s gems. B

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – Miranda Lambert
“You can take each song on this album and compare it to the first record [Kerosene], and you can see that it’s an upgrade,” says Miranda Lambert. “It shows two years of growth. I also let people in a lot more than I did on the last record – so I’m a little scared, but I’m proud.”

Indeed, there’s no sophomore slump for Lambert, 23, who follows her chart-topping debut album with an impressive follow-up. The tender “Love Letters,” “More Like Her” and “Down” show off the Texan’s crooning expertise and the diversity of her songs, but this gal can write as well. She penned three of the CD’s 11 tracks herself, and cowrote another five. “Easy From Now On,” which Lambert calls “a ridiculously great song,” closes the album. This is an impressive second release from the star that first captured America’s heart (and ears) on Nashville Star in 2003. A

One of the Boys – Gretchen Wilson
The “Redneck Woman” from southern Illinois sold more than five million copies of her debut CD, Here for the Party. Her sophomore album, All Jacked Up, didn’t move as much. On this third release, Gretchen Wilson joined mega-producer Mark Wright and MuzikMafia partner John Rich in the studio – and the collaboration of talent has produced one heck of an album.

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“You Don’t Have to Go Home” has a monster fiddle presence and an AC/DC guitar break. The rocker “There’s a Place in the Whiskey” will burn up the night. The 33-year-old’s soft side shows on “Heaven Help Me,” “Come to Bed (featuring John Rich),” “Pain Killer,” and “To Tell You the Truth.” The 11 tracks on One of the Boys reinforce Wilson’s raw talent and uniqueness, something Nashville needs more of. A-

Live at Texas Stadium – Alan Jackson, George Strait, Jimmy Buffett
Live albums may not be your normal cup of tea, but when it’s Alan Jackson, George Strait and Jimmy Buffett on the stage, who can resist? Recorded live from Irving, Texas, in 2004, this long-delayed project is finally out on MCA Records. On the 15 tracks, the threesome sing together, separately and in duets, which turns out be an entertainingly nice gesture.

Time-tested live selections such as “Margaritaville,” “Where I Come From” and “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” strengthen the record. But Jackson, Strait and Buffett throw a few Dallas Cowboy-like touchdowns on here, including the Hank Williams classic “Hey, Good Lookin’,” and Hank Williams Jr.’s classic “Texas Women.”

A bluegrass version of Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road” gets the crowd out of their seats. Two of these singers (Jackson and Strait) aren’t normally the most exciting singers in concert, but pairing them together and with a wild-man like “Mr. Margaritaville” makes for something extraordinary. B+