Black Music Matters Festival

Chuck Wicks

Starting Now – 2008 (RCA)

Reviewed by Rick Bell

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CDs by Chuck Wicks

It isn't often that a country singer kicks off a career with a weepy, contemplative ballad and enjoys a good measure of success right out of the gate. Yet, Chuck Wicks managed to pull it off with his unlikely hit "Stealing Cinderella." And it stirred plenty of emotions - including those of University of Tennessee football coach Phil Fulmer, who asked the Delaware native to perform the song about a young man asking for his girlfriend's hand in marriage at Fulmer's daughter's wedding after he heard it on a Knoxville radio station.

Between gigs parking cars and playing for anyone who would listen, Wicks avoided gimmicks and instead churned out thoughtful, contemporary slices of life. He co-wrote 10 of the 11 cuts with Nashville heavyweights Rivers Rutherford, Monty Powell and Troy Verges. "What if You Stay" broods with passion as Wicks pleads for a lost love to return, and "Man of the House" is an early nominee for top tear jerker of 2008.

Wicks's voice has a ways to go push itself beyond today's young country stars, but with songs like these, he's already a step ahead.