Traditionalists are always moaning that Nashville's new stars have largely deserted authentic country music to play '70s pop-rock. For non-purists, though, if Music Row's new pop singers in cowboy hats could live up to the '70s standards of Bob Seger or Lindsey Buckingham, that would be a welcome development. Too often, however, they live down to the standards of Firefall or Rupert Holmes.
Take Shane Minor. Please.
The former LAPD officer begins his eponymous debut album with a ringing cowbell and a guitar riff nicked from the Rolling Stones' "Tumbling Dice." The song is "Slave to the Habit," his successful first single, but its description of romantic addiction is so generic, so casual that it has nothing to do with true obsession.
The rest of the disc follows the same formula: a splashy, often derivative hook grabs your ear and sets up Minor's big, attractive tenor as he goes through the motions of another romantic cliche.
Minor's producer, Dann Huff, also oversaw "The Whole SheBang," the debut album from SheDaisy. This Utah trio of Osborns -- Kristyn, Kassidy and Kelsi -- was signed in the wake of the triumphant breakthrough of the Dixie Chicks, another trio featuring at least two sisters. But the sound on "The Whole SheBang" has more in common with the punchy drums, cranked-up guitars and sexy-but-strong attitude of Shania Twain than the bluegrass-pop of the Dixie Chicks. Kristyn co-wrote every song and she comes up with some clever lines, as on the first single, "Little Good-Byes," but there's no illusion that she's describing an actual experience.
SheDaisy is imitating Twain imitating Pat Benatar imitating Grace Slick imitating Lesley Gore.
Brad Paisley, who at 14 became the youngest member ever elected to WWVA's "Jamboree USA" radio show, has more authentic country instincts than most young stars coming out of Nashville these days. You can hear it in his West Virginia drawl and hillbilly guitar licks.
He wrote or co-wrote every song but one on his debut album, "Who Needs Pictures," but his lyrics are stranded in that no man's land -- too cute to be realistic, but not clever enough to be really funny. If his songwriting improves, though, Paisley has the tools to be a legitimate country artist.
Appearing with Randy Travis Saturday at the Nissan Pavilion. To hear a free Sound Bite from Shane Minor, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8103. For one from SheDaisey, press 8104. For one from Sound Bite from Brad Paisley, press 8105. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)
CAPTION: Shane Minor's talent is not major.