Perhaps chastened by recent soft sales, country labels and stations are backing a miniwave of artists they all but ignored two years ago: singers whose style is a little grittier than the vapid "hot country" that prevails in Nashville. Ducas is one. On his second album the music has some subtlety and flex; it doesn't just hit you over the head. "Every Time She Passes By" is a catchy piece of retro country rock, evoking Bobby Fuller ("I Fought the Law"). Where I Stand, in fact, is almost too clever a compendium of retro effects: Farfisa-style organ ("Tricky Moon"), Byrds-style wall-of-guitars ("You Could've Fooled Me") and re-creations, complete with fiddle and barroom dolor, of dusty old honky-tonk ("I'm Pretending," "The Invisible Man").
Ducas lacks that last ounce of individuality that pushes a Jim Lauderdale or a Dwight Yoakam past artisanry into genuine creativity. But if country radio played more Ducases and fewer videogenic clones, our ears would be a lot better off. Capable of pleasing traditionalists and Top 40 deejays alike, Ducas is a comer. (Capitol Nashville)