Picks and Pans Review: County Line

updated 02/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Southern Pacific

Gone are whatever demons seemed to be luring Southern Pacific in the direction of no-risk, no-reward corporate country music. This collection dares to be ambitious, dabbling in pop influences that rarely dip a toe in country music—the Beach Boys Actually Go Nashville, for heaven's sake! Yet Stu Cook, Kurt Howell, Keith Knudsen and John McFee, who make up SP, never let things get out of hand; they maintain their country inflections throughout the album, and the results are more than splendid.

The blend on "G.T.O.," with the Beach Boys and Southern Pacific in a massed pop chorus, sounds like a mess, but it's as tasty a combination as a California avocado salad served with Southern fried chicken. McFee's vocal brings out the emotion in the Peter and Gordon hit "I Go to Pieces"; Carlene Carter joins McFee for a snappy duet on the Wendy Waldman-Harry Stinson-Kevin Welch tune "Time's Up"; and Howell and McFee romp through their own "I Can't Complain." There's a hint of Louisiana on the Obie Jesse Young-Sam Ling song "Mary Lou."

Southern Pacific produced this album, its fourth, with Jim Ed Norman. As for those demons, if the boys had to do any soul-selling to end up with a record this good, at least they got their money's worth. (Warner Bros.)

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