The combined musical talents of Urban, coupled with the young Aussie's considerable...
Sue Keogh 2004
Keith Urban really entered into our consciousness when he took home the coveted Horizon Award at the 2001 CMA's. But of course, you don't get overnight success like that without years of hard graft. He started out in Australia leading country power trio The Ranch, then, after enjoying four number ones on the Oz country charts, he decided in 1996 to head to Nashville to try to replicate this success.
The combined musical talents of Urban and band members Pete Clarke and Jerry Flowers, coupled with the young Aussie's considerable charms as a front man, meant The Ranch quickly caused a buzz on the Music City's live circuit, winning them a record deal with the mighty Capitol Nashville. But it never really got off the ground and Urban went solo.
Today, he's just received a CMA Male Vocalist nomination for the second year running and is poised to release his third solo album, Be Here. So to repackage and re-release The Ranch's album is a timely move. It helps put his music in context; and you'll find it consistent in tone and quality with what was to follow.
Being relatively early in his career, perhaps Urban didn't feel the pressure to include the obligatory soppy ballads, like he did in 2003's otherwise excellent Golden Road. Instead, Keith Urban In The Ranch is consistently snappy and bright, co-produced with a light touch between Urban and either Copeland or Monty Powell, the man behind the excellent country Eagles tribute, Common Thread.
Urban dominates when it comes to the songwriting, too, this time in partnership with Vernon Rust, who's been little heard of before or since. It's a shame as the guy's clearly got a knack for a strong melody and unpretentious lyric, as demonstrated in one of the album highlights, "Homespun Love".
As an added extra you get two bonus tracks, including a decent cover of the Stealers Wheel classic "Stuck In The Middle" (which, to be fair, is the kind of song you can't mess up). There's video too - their first US single "Walkin' The Country" and the driving instrumental "Clutterbilly". Something to whet your appetite in anticipation of the next record.