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Chris LeDoux

After the Storm – 2002 (Capitol)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Chris LeDoux

Chris LeDoux's music is filled with the mature sense of self that's missing from the work of fresh-faced Nashville strivers. It's a perspective honed from a life of experience, and left unperturbed by the necessities of modern chart stardom. On this latest, LeDoux's introspective sensibility has been magnified by a health crisis and subsequent successful liver transplant. The resulting mood reflects a deepened sense of contentment with family, friends, work and play.

From the opening Garth Brooks duet, "Some Things Never Change," to the closing remake of the rodeo-themed "Bareback Jack," LeDoux contemplates the simple things that make up one's life; romance ("Millionaire" "What I'm Up Against"), hard work ("Cowboy Up" "Simple as Dirt"), and music making ("Don't it Make You Want to Dance") provide a few of his daily joys. Even David Lee Murphy's funereal "Scatter the Ashes" finds peace in the final departure from a well-lived life.

LeDoux's happiness and comfort is infectious, enough so to credit the backing singers on one track as "everybody in the studio." His tone may be less rowdy than on earlier albums (though the western swing of "I Don't Want to Mention Any Names" has a sly bounce), but his words are no less powerful. LeDoux's music gains character each time he rides out of the chute.