There's only 1 fiddle player on Keith Urban's latest, but there are 10 violinists. Not to mention cellists, violists, an Uillean piper, a horn section and two different choirs. While using half an orchestra must have made for busy recording sessions, the resulting album is surprisingly uncluttered.
There are occasional distractions - a Celtic riff that comes and goes in "I Told You So" and a breathy Spanish monologue under the bridge in "Tu Compania" - but the focus is on guitar hooks and catchy lyrics. The album allows Urban takes room to explore those hooks in extended guitar solos and instrumental breaks. Weighing in at over an hour, the lengthy tracks and focus on guitar create the feel of classic rock, rather than country.
Lyrically, Urban occasionally resorts to easy lines like "everybody needs somebody sometimes," but most of the songs demonstrate well-developed verses to go with the sing along choruses. The best writing comes courtesy of Sarah Buxton with a song that will appear on her debut album; "Stupid Boy" is an emotional rumination on the kind of damage a controlling man can do without ever raising a fist.
With his personal life splashed across the tabloids, it's easy to dismiss Urban as merely a pretty boy poseur. This album proves that his talents run deeper than warm blue eyes and tight blue jeans.