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For every song that clings to the conventions of contemporary country music - including his biggest hit, “Love Your Love the Most,” which details a humdrum love for beer and honky-tonk shows - Mr. Church has another like “I’m Gettin’ Stoned,” whose devil-may-care title says everything about his outlaw image.

“I’m Getting’ Stoned” is one of the 10 original songs on “Chief,” Mr. Church’s third album. Bouncing between Southern rock, swampy blues and outlaw country, it’s a riled-up record for those who think Nashville’s music scene has gotten a bit soft during the past 20 years.

On “Homeboy,” Mr. Church skewers a friend who ditched town and lit out for the big city. The lyrics paint the usual picture of small-town America, with familiar references to ice cold beer and farm labor. The guitar riffs are the stuff of rock ‘n’ roll, though, modeled after AC/DC’s electric wallop and pushed to the very front of the mix. This isn’t your grandmother’s country music.

At the end of the day, Mr. Church is still writing songs for country radio. He’s more aggressive than most, though, occupying the narrow space where country and rock music overlap. Looking for a more twangy Kid Rock? “Chief” is a good place to start.



Joss Stone

Stone’d Records


Don’t let the title fool you; “LP1” is actually Joss Stone’s fifth studio album. It’s her first as an indie artist, though, and it features a trimmed-down version of the soul music she performed during her time on EMI Records.

Stripped of the major-label gloss that permeated her earlier albums, Miss Stone still sounds like a classic soul singer for the iPod generation, even though some of the album’s best moments arrive courtesy of co-writer and co-producer Dave Stewart.