Review: Chris Young – The Man I Want To Be (RCA) 2009

There’s a strength in Chris Young’s voice that is undeniable. I mean, where did this guy come from?

Well, for me, Chris Young slipped under the radar. He won Nashville Star a few years ago and even put out a debut album. Sorry, I missed the launch of Young’s country music career.

So, I’m playing a little catch-up. I guess it was when I saw Young’s huge single – “Getting’ You Home (The Black Dress Song)” go straight to number one this past week, I took notice.

Tracking down and finally listening to Young’s sophomore album, to 10-track The Man I Want To Be, Young has found a new fan.

Rather than basing his sound on the more country-rock or pop side of the fence, this shrewd-and-talented Tennessee native has done his homework, embraced a more traditional country sound and the approach is paying off.

The traditional sound comes off well on “The Shoebox,” a song that would sound just as great sung by Josh Turner or even Randy Travis. Young’s smooth baritone really enhances this thoughtful song about holding onto those important memories.

The title track, “The Man I Want To Be,” is a prayer of sorts where we find Young asking God to help him be a better man. This track should be considered a strong contender for the next single release off the album.

Willie Nelson offers a guest vocal on the the fiddle-friendly “Rose In Paradise.” While you would expect this duet to be one of the best tracks on the album, it doesn’t have the same impact a lot of Willie/(insert name here) vocal collaborations usually have. It’s certainly no “Beer For My Horses.”

Co-written by Young, “Voices” is a clever song in that Young sings that he is hearing “voices” but he’s not crazy. It’s the voices of his wise parents and grandparents playing over in his mind reminding him to make good decisions.

“It Takes A Man,” a hit for Canadian country singer Aaron Lines, is a poignant song about a young man getting a girl pregnant and ultimately agreeing to take on the responsibilities that will entail. “Any fool can make a baby / But it takes a man to raise a child.”

The final track here, an amazingly good cover of the melancholy classic “Rainy Night In Georgia,” a soulful song popularized by Brook Benton back in 1970. Young, while a very soulful singer himself, keeps it in country territory.

Chris Young’s The Man I Want To Be is a classic-sounding country album that is very contemporary and very easy to listen to. I think Mr. Young is on to something here.