In a Nashville environment where tales of Deep South trailer park poverty are worn...
Sue Keogh 2004
In a Nashville environment where tales of Deep South trailer park poverty are worn like badges of honour, Keith Urban's Australian upbringing means he's had to work twice as hard to be accepted. It's not the only thing which marks him out from the other thrusting young males on the country scene. He's no angry young man like Toby Keith or Daryle Singletary, instead opting to avoid the political in favour of inoffensive themes of relationship struggles and living a God-fearing life. Just like Kenny Chesney, but with the musicianship to back it up.
He's a phenomenal guitarist, like Brad Paisley, but has a dangerous edge that comes from flicked blond hair, tight jeans and an infectious energy on stage. He's the David Beckham of country music.
His third album, Be Here, sees Urban continuing in much the same vein as Golden Road (2002) and Keith Urban (2000). Co-produced again with Dann Huff (Lonestar, Clint Black and Megadeth), the pair indulge their love of driving guitar riffs from the outset. But they're commercially minded enough to not leave it too long before dropping in the ballads aimed at the female fanbase, including "The Hard Way", "You're My Better Half" and the piano-led "Tonight I Wanna Cry" with its soaring "Wind Beneath My Wings" type chorus.
These two styles are cleverly combined on "I Could Fly" and "You're My Better Half", which are both upbeat and poppy whilst being, frankly, wet, but somehow they manage to get away with it.
Rodney Crowell -who contributed some of the finer moments on Golden Road - largely dispenses with the flowery stuff, opting for simplicity in his tribute to his wife, "Makin' Memories Of Us". But just when you're enjoying the direct and honest declarations of 'I wanna sleep with you forever', he goes and blows it with the promise, 'We'll follow the rainbow, wherever the four winds blow...'.
One song you'll recognise will be "Country Comfort", the 1970s Elton John song which Urban first discovered via 1980s country star Juice Newton. John revived it recently for the Earl Scruggs And Friends album, and it's good to see that banjo still taking centre stage. Three solo albums in and the boy's really starting to make his mark.