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James Hyland

Place I Call Home – 2000 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Joel Bernstein

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CDs by James Hyland

Austin-based James Hyland is the latest practitioner of "frat boy" country, a subgenre suddenly so popular in Texas that the scene might be compared to Liverpool circa 1962. However, it remains a question whether this particular mania will ever spread. Certainly if mainstream country radio programmers are serious about recapturing the male audience they have to look closely at this scene. It's music with balls - in more ways than one. Hyland's "Part-Time Girlfriend" may be an anthem to his young female fans, but many other women will find that song - and several others here - more offensive than any Nashville pap is to men. The subgenre's endorsement of pot-smoking - at least twice on this album - may also limit its mass appeal.

The biggest problem, however, is that with the exception of Charlie Robison's, these "frat boy" ditties tend to all sound alike. Without being privy to their live antics, it is difficult to distinguish James Hyland from Pat Green from Jack Ingram. However, when Hyland plays it straight, as on his own "Hill Country Nights" or Walter Hyatt's "Early Days With You" (a duet with Toni Price) he shows he can be more than a one-trick pony.