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Chris LeDoux

Live – 1997 (Capitol)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by Chris LeDoux

Chris LeDoux fans might be concerned by the arena country photos included in the accompanying booklet. Gigantic stages, explosions, and 20-foot high jets of flame are more associated with hard rock bands than with the likes of LeDoux. And they'd have good reason for concern. LeDoux has been, for the past quarter-century, one of the finest cowboy singers that country music has to offer in the latter years of the 20th century.

But it's fair to say that LeDoux has been paying attention during his recent association with Garth Brooks (who co-wrote "Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy," included here). The HNC influence is sometimes disturbingly obvious, such as on "Hooked On an 8 Second Ride," which comes across more like an arena rock band of 15 years ago.

Having said that, Chris LeDoux' vocals sound as good as ever and on older songs, such as "Copenhagen" and "Bareback Jack," LeDoux and his band prove that they can deliver the goods with unqualified enthusiasm. In the 17-song disc's favor is the fact that it provides a generous overview of LeDoux' career. Recent material is well-represented, but so is LeDoux' older work.

The HNC touches are likely to worry longtime fans who care about such things, but "Live" provides value for money and, as already stated, LeDoux never sounds less than great. Call it a qualified success.