In the Ranch Keith Urban Primary Artist
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Before he struck gold as a solo artist, Aussie guitar-slinger Keith Urban was just another Nashville newcomer, trying to make it big with his band, the Ranch. The hard-charging country-rock trio signed with Capitol, released one album in '97 to little notice, and soon split. Those recordings resurface on this reissue, which includes two new tracks. Those familiar with Urban's solo work won't be surprised by his performance here: the trebly, twangy, speed-picked licks, the clever lyrics, or the warm, expressive voice. Walkin' the Country percolates to a jaunty riff and steely, popping licks, as the singers' smooth harmonies evoke a mountain sound in celebrating the joys of rural life with a significant other. Freedom's Finally Mine busts out of the gate white-hot behind a serpentine, steely guitar riff from the {|Skynyrd|} textbook. The mid-tempo acoustic workout Homespun Love charts the rush of new love, heavy on exuberant dobro punctuations, while at the other end of the spectrum, Urban's measured, deeply felt reading of the breakup tale My Last Name lends grandeur to a gentle, propulsive shuffle. The new tracks include a rocking cover of Stealers Wheel's Stuck in the Middle with You and the Urban co-write Billy, a stomping country blues rich in banjo and acoustic and electric guitar exhortations. The Ranch may not have been right for its time, but it sounds right on time now.


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