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Gary Bonnett: The Long Road Home (Self-Released)

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When Johnny Cash first sang, "I shot a man in Reno / just to watch him die," it sounded downright menacing, because it sounded as if he might mean it. When Gary Bonnett sings, "Killed a girl down in Texas, down in San Angelo / She broke my heart, so I took her soul," on "San Angelo," a jangly, rootsy acoustic pop song that doesn't sound the least bit menacing, the lyrics just don't fit the music that backs them.

Gary Bonnett cut his teeth playing in bands in Georgia and his native West Virginia before making his way to Tucson. He trades in the poppy country style that you'll find on most stations nowadays, with nary a nod to alt-country authenticity. The aforementioned "San Angelo" serves as a roadmap for the rest of the album, loaded with one country cliché after another.

There's the song about heading into town looking for trouble (a cover of Matt Powell's "$50 and a Flask of Crown," one of the best songs on the album), the Southern-rock tune about being an unapologetic redneck ("Hillbilly Way"), the childhood reminiscence/I'm-coming-home song ("Rock Cave") and even the requisite song about Jesus ("I'm a Christian").

The album isn't bad; it's just difficult to get past the formula. Still, that shouldn't preclude Bonnett from getting some playtime on modern country radio—clearly the audience he's going for anyway.

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