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Back in the Saddle ()

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Chris Cagle's Capitol contract ran out after 2008's My Life's Been a Country Song -- a hits summary arrived two years later -- and three years later the country singer went independent, signing with the Bigger Picture Music Group in 2011 and issuing Back in the Saddle a year later. As the title makes plain, Cagle is positioning this as a comeback and he returns to hard country, at least in theme. There are plenty of songs about god, country, mama, cowgirls, and whiskey, all the standard tropes, all delivered in a polished package that doesn't bring to mind the Johnny Cash he's "rolling and bumping" on the opening "Got My Country On." There are a couple fiddles on "Just Enough," but these 11 songs are all rocking country that's gotten just a little bit long in the tooth, holding on to the blasting guitar riffs and power ballads of '90s crossover but delivering them on a slightly smaller scale. Everything sounds the teensiest bit diminished, as if it's waiting for another layer of gloss or at least a second set of overdubs, but Cagle also feels rather comfortable in this relatively modest setting. A bit older and a bit slower, he's facing his forties not by abandoning his crossover sound but rather by digging roots, giving himself the leeway to not try so hard anymore. Perhaps he may have been better served by a more adventurous set of songs or subjects but he feels friendly and comfortable here, happy to get back to the business of making music. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi Hide synopsis

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