On the thoughtful "Awful Beautiful Life," off Darryl Worley's self-titled fourth album, the country singer exhibits an insightful awareness of life's vagaries; "I love this crazy, tragic, sometimes almost magic/Awful beautiful life." Worley also waxes philosophical on "What Makes a Man Do That," and on "I Love Her, She Hates Me," which is basically a honky-tonker, he reveals a little barroom coping mechanism: "I love her, she hates me and I drink." With Frank Rogers producing, Worley. thankfully, never carries things so far as to seem pedantic. He hasn't been spoiled by the success of his 9/11 hit, "Have You Forgotten?" though he does play national conscience a little on the antidrug song "Wake Up America." Nor does he neglect musicality; his Haggardian voice seems to have warmed and deepened with time. And Worley nicely plays off his backup musicians, especially drummer Kevin "Swine" Grantt and steel guitarist Steve Hinson. Some people, no doubt, would prefer not having to think so much with their country music, but let's tip our Stetsons to a man who isn't afraid to seem smart. —R.N.
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