Adding 'Farmer's Daughter' to Rodney Atkins' third album 'It's America' might be the best thing to have happened to his fourth album, 'Take a Back Road.' While the song is included as a bonus track on this new project, it was initially slotted as the lead single. Atkins admits that hurrying the creative process for 'It's America' led to its comparative lack of success (2006's 'If You're Going Through Hell' went platinum with four No. 1 singles), so when the song peaked quickly, he remained faithful to his early methods instead of once again rushing.

His patience pays off on 'Take a Back Road,' an album of focused, small town lessons riding atop catchy choruses and everyman emotion. The 12 new songs pick up where 'If You're Going Through Hell' left off and venture into new territory.

On 'She'd Rather Fight,' 'Feet' and 'Cabin in the Woods' Atkins turns his folksy charm to marriage. He tells Taste of Country he wanted to include a love song that a couple that has been married 13 years (as he and Tammy Jo have) could appreciate. 'Cabin in the Woods' is the lone sheet burner, but 'Feet' is the one partners will appreciate most. "We'd rather hold our grudges than be the one that budges / We go to bed buttin' heads and tuggin' sheets  / But we never go to sleep without touching feet," he sings.

The best songs can be found late in the album, although the funny-'cause-it's-true 'Family' shines early on. 'Growing Up Like That,' may not be the next single, but it should hit radio waves at some point. Like all great Atkins songs, there's a certain 'awww' factor to this hooky tribute to fathers and childhood, but it's not so syrupy that men will need to roll up the windows before singing along.

That really is Atkins' sweet spot: cute, but not too cute. A few song on 'Take a Back Road' underachieve ('He's Mine' feels about one verse short), but not many. There's no reason this album shouldn't be every bit as successful as 'If You're Going Through Hell.'

4 Stars


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