Could the world's best taco be found at an Italian restaurant? Theoretically, there's no reason why it couldn't. But would our impression of the taco be distorted by the other offerings on the menu and 'Funiculi Funicula' playing from the overhead speakers in the dining room? Corey Smith's new album isn't as much as a deviation from country music as the taco is to lasagna, but there's something remarkably different about the singer-songwriter's patter, appearance and personality.

On paper, the songs on 'The Broken Record' -- in stores today, June 21 -- are about everyday experiences and emotions. That's pretty much the definition of country music, right? You may be asking, "Who cares if he's 'country' or not?" If you're open-minded enough to suggest that, you'll love this album. If you like your Budweiser cold, your tractors green and your country music to sound like it's always sounded then it's advisable you preview some of the 17 songs on the record before plunking down the money to buy it.

Enough with the prefacing, and on to the review. There is some great music on 'The Broken Record,' a collection of new songs and previous hits re-recorded. As a songwriter, Smith has a keen ability to share his experiences, using as few words as possible to paint vivid details. At times, however, the stories are so personal they become inaccessible. His single 'Twenty-One' suffers from this malady. It's a perfect "cycle of life" story, but it's obvious that's it's Smith's story.

"Well Thursdays came / And pocket change would quickly disappear / Upstairs at Lowry's Tavern / We'd pay a nickel for the beer / Shooting pool, smoking cigarettes / With a dizzy head and a grin / 4AM on a school night / Still hanging out with my friends," Smith sings to begin the second verse.

Songs like 'If I Could Do It Again' and 'Maybe Next Year' are begging to be heard live. They're catchy and memorable and fun to sing along to. A dozen others could become someone's favorite song. The jazzy 'Heart Attack' isn't like much one will hear on the radio, while the title track is one anyone who's felt marginalized at work can relate to. The only thread tying these many inspirations, styles and ideas together is Smith's very unique voice. It's a southern drawl unlike any other.

There is plenty to praise, but to recap this short list of criticisms, Smith makes his music too personal, refuses to write mainstream country music and maybe talks kind of funny. How superficial can you get, right?

An artist should never be criticized for making art that's true to his character, but on the other hand, that artist can't expect everyone to love (and buy) it. One hopes Smith remains patient and never yearns for the fame and fortune a No. 1 hit song can bring. Only when that becomes his goal has he failed.

4 Stars

Watch the Corey Smith 'Twenty-One' Video

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