Picks and Pans Review: Straight Ahead
Gatlin is one of Nashville's most refreshing and inventive singer-writers of tunes that rove across country, pop and soft-rock borders. This, his eighth LP, is his finest to date. The dominant appeal is the soaring harmonies he creates with brothers Steve and Rudy. But it would be hard to find more forceful, pretty vocal "hooks" than on All the Gold in California, Can't Cry Anymore and Hold Me Closer. Gatlin arranges his ballads (Piece by Piece, The Way I Did Before) without the Music City mush of overproduction and country-pop schmaltz. He is also a savvy lyricist. On the affecting Midnight Choir, about Nashville winos who "get saved for the third time this week" at a Rescue Mission he tacks on an ironic chorus: When four staggering down-and-outers pass around a bottle of wine, they bellow: "Dear Lord, we'd all like to know/Will they have Mogen David in Heaven/Sweet Jesus, if they don't, who the hell wants to go?"