Black cowboy hat: $75. Faded blue jeans, pressed: $29. Leather belt with big-ass gold buckle: $65. Warm, confident voice and having "Ty" as a first name: Not exactly priceless, but a hell of a good start in the fickle world of country music.
Beaumont's Ty Phillips enters the fray backed by a near-flawless performance from airtight Nashville session players, and this ten-song disc might set some established artists atwitter in their endless quests to cop new material. In his five original songs (including three co-writes with Linda Dockens), Phillips has all the requisite country themes covered: There's life in a small town where you remember your first kiss; thanks to God for making you the perfect woman to share your double-wide; the long wallow in the memory of the woman who got away; and, lest we forget, blue-collar boys who celebrate Friday nights with cold beer and hot chicks.
As any Music City suit will tell you, it all boils down to finding that one song that sounds almost exactly like an actual hit by a well-known star. Phillips has a couple of those in "Small Town" and "Girl for Me," with the latter being the benchmark mid-tempo, 4/4 trotter now in vogue.
As for his singing, Phillips has versatile chops, but perhaps too much so. Several times he twists and turns too far from the natural flow in what could be an unconscious effort to emulate George Strait. The result is a sense of hesitation as he decides how much East Texas to slather on the words or whether to apply that upward flare to the final half-note at the end of a line. What really stands out, though, is "I'm Not Through Loving You," in which Phillips pours it out with simple conviction over a Phil Spectorish wall-of-sound pop arrangement, bolstered by some tasteful accordion fills and, thankfully, not a friggin' fiddle in sight. Now that's priceless.
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