Album: Need You Know

Artist: Lady Antebellum

Buy: Give it a try!

Soft-growling “Well this heart of mine / Has been hardened like a stone" – the starting line of the trio's first album, a self-titled debut that sold more than a million copies in which Kelley sounded like a blue-eyed soulster who had wandered into the wrong place. In other words; He stood out.

The brother of pop singer Josh Kelley (a.k.a. Mr. Katherine Heigl), Charles Kelley initially reminded me of Raul Malo, former front man of the Mavericks, current nominee for one of the best singers. Kelley should be a solo star, but for now, he'll have to settle for being the best part of the hottest group in Nashville.

Lady Antebellum ‘s Need You Now - The title track has already gone No. 1, selling a million downloads — and with good reason. A duet between Kelley and the band's female star, Hillary Scott, Need You Know is a mid-tempo portrayal of being drunk, randy and wistful. Scott is a borderline talent, a Kmart Natalie Maines. But Kelley easily steals the show, his Wild Turkey lower register inducing chills.

Alas, that song is Kelley's best showcase in the album, which is woefully lacking in those swerve-off-the-road moments. Maybe I'm greedy, but I wish Lady Antebellum weren't such a democracy. It seems to think Scott is as big a talent as Kelley. She's not. Second single American Honey features Scott reminiscing about her salad days. It's flat — cloying, even. In Lady Antebellum, Haywood writes its own stuff, building harmonies and acoustic melodies.

Kelley does have a few keeper moments, although for some reason he forgoes chasing that million-dollar note. The solemn Hello World and If I Knew Then build to emotional finishes. And he shows an aggressive side on Populist Party cut Stars Tonight. Still, this guy is so good; you have to figure his best days are ahead of him — as a solo star knocking 'em dead on his own.

Srikrishna Natesan, drummer for Blind Image

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Music unlimited IIJuly 31, 2010