Rodney Atkins

It's America – 2009 (Curb)

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

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CDs by Rodney Atkins

When you've recorded Billboard's number 1 country song of 2006 (If You're Going Through Hell) and 2007 (Watching You), what do you do for an encore? Rodney Atkins is here to tell us: you don't mess with the recipe.

As usual, the hook-seeking guitar licks lead the pop country charge, with the occasional appearance of fiddles and banjos for seasoning. Atkins tapped into the services of an army of writers for the 11 songs, including 3 he helped write. Yet, there is a cohesive world view to which the Tennessee baritone clearly subscribes. Whether he's singing the praises of the clean T-shirt, the John Deere (Friends With Tractors) or cheering NASCAR (Best Things), Atkins has found his niche of singing about the southern tribe. Not once, perhaps wisely, does he veer into the dangerous territory of the comings and goings of love.

The biggest missteps actually come when he strays too far from "his" people - something feels forced when we hear the praises of both the farms and the cities in the title track single. We also don't get anything resembling character study much beyond a hunting license. Nonetheless, however familiar, some of salutes to simple pleasures (Chasing Girls, 15 Minutes) stand out as great fun. And in the final track, The River Just Knows, Atkins wants us to know that you may just see a good old boy trolling for catfish, but there can be a depth of feeling underneath the silence.