COMIN' TO YOUR CITY

Big & Rich

Hide the women, children and country music purists: The Nashville rebels Big & Rich are coming to town for a three-ring hillbilly hoedown.

So they threaten on the titular single from their uneven new album. It's a raucous country-rock anthem on which fiddles and electric guitars fight for space (and a fat disco bass line carries the bridge) as "Big" Kenny Alphin and John Rich toast their life-of-the-party status. "We're gonna play our guitars and sing you a country song," the marshals of Music Row's freak parade promise. But it's a somewhat misleading declaration, as Big & Rich don't often do conventional country songs.

The renegade duo, which aptly titled its 2004 debut "Horse of a Different Color," revels in coloring outside the lines and blowing up the genre's rigid parameters by incorporating R&B, disco and even rap into its music.

The new album's "Leap of Faith," for instance, finds Big & Rich searching for the stylistic middle ground between the Eagles and Barenaked Ladies. And "Caught Up in the Moment," a naughty new song about joining the Mile High Club, contains a lyrical reference to Nelly plus an interpolated bit of his "Hot in Herre." (As weird as it sounds in theory, it's even more jarring coming out of your speakers.)

On "Jalapeno," while declaring that "Big & Rich is where the party be," the duo matches steel guitars with Black Crowes-y blues-rock licks and yet another disco bass line. It's an interesting mix at first pass, but repeated listens suggest it's more a novelty -- though not nearly as much as the snicker-inducing, foot-stomping "20 Margaritas," which has nothing on Brad Paisley's brilliant "Alcohol."

Lest Big & Rich go too far afield, though, the pair does include some more typical fare on "Comin' to Your City," not least the plaintive breakup ballad "Never Mind Me" and the Vietnam vet homage "8th of November." The latter, serious song closes the album, as if to clean up the wild mess Big & Rich have left behind. It also signals that it's safe to come out again.

-- J. Freedom du Lac