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51apak8vLKL. SL160 When I first heard that STAIND frontman AARON LEWIS was prepping a country record, my first response was to question whether it was genuine, or if he was following the money into more commercial waters. There’s been so many occasions in the past where artists do the crossover thing just for a quick buck, it’s often hard to separate the real deal from all the pretenders.

In Lewis’ case, his love of country music and the small town lifestyle rings true on his debut solo EP, TOWN LINE.

With numerous nods to his home in rural New England, Lewis speaks like a true raconteur, painting a vivid picture of his life and family. Especially clear on the opening track, “The Story Never Ends,” Lewis lays down the loyalty for home and family, keeping thoughts of both at the forefront even while on the road. “Vicious Circles” brings a heavy dose of metaphor, eluding to both Christ and  Van Gogh.

On his first single “Country Boy” (three versions are included here), Lewis tells his version of the all-too-common “boy from the country moves to L.A.” tale, giving it the freshest spin since Shooter Jennings’ “This Ol Wheel.” While the circumstances are always similar, they’re never the same.  A reworked version of STAIND’s“Tangled up in You” follows, bringing Alexa Carter in for guest vocals to complete a song that was already very “country” to begin with. “Massachusetts” is the perfect bookend to finish the EP, acting as a closing chapter to “The Story Never Ends.”

Having spent a good portion of my own youth  living in a small rural town about 50 miles south of Chicago (Monee), there’s a lot I can relate to on TOWN LINE. Sure the rock might take center stage most of the time, but once the country is in your blood… it’s there for life.

Rating: 4.5/5

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