Luck & Desire

Josh Grider’s latest full-length effort, the Trent Wilmon-produced Luck & Desire, can be heard as a tale of two styles. It’s imminently listenable, and there isn’t a note out of place. And in some cases, primarily with the album’s slower songs, that lack of looseness fits beautifully; yet in others, it comes across as somewhat generic calculation that pulses with a toothless limp. The album’s first two songs offer a compelling study of the contrasting sides. The title track is a total stunner with pedal-steel-kissed simplicity; a better instrumental vehicle for Grider’s rich baritone is tough to imagine, and the lyrics, draped with thoughtful imagery, are gripping and demand strict attention. But the track that follows, the pseudo-rocking “Anything Can Happen,” is at best cringe-inducing, with lines like “country girls dance to a hip-hop song” suggesting that Grider’s been chugging his own share of that Bro-Country Kool-Aid that’s so popular in mainstream country music these days. Similarly, with their bland nods to neon signs and alleged country-life, it’s tough to tell if songs such as “Haymaker” and the laughable laundry list that is “Can’t Stop” are parodies or in fact sincere stabs at radio stardom. Of course one wants to give Grider the benefit of the doubt and assume the former, and to his credit, the title track isn’t the only keeper on here. “Skin and Bone,” with its raw-boned electric strums and stirring vocal assistance by Grider’s wife Kristi, is as powerful a duet heard around the Texas music scene since, well, the last time Walt and Tina Wilkins sang together. In the end, the good stuff here ultimately outweighs the lame, but those aforementioned questionable moments make Luck & Desire more of a mixed bag than a complete success. — KELLY DEARMORE

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