Picks and Pans Review: Kid Rock

updated 12/22/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/22/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

Kid Rock

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Hailing though he does from Romeo, Mich., Kid Rock has never been an apostle of romantic love, as he amply demonstrates on this obscenity-laced ode to drugs, hos and rock and roll. But as he makes the crossover from misogynist hard-rock rapper to misogynist guitar-strumming outlaw country boy—or "American Bad Ass," as the tattoo across his back proclaims him—the Kid is attempting to keep his redneck pimp persona intact even as he shows his sensitive side. "Have you seen a grown man cry/Or a child that's slowly dying?" he croons on "I Am," a song that stretches his vocal powers—and listener's credulity—with lines like, "I'll be a cowboy till I die." Oh, really? The swaggering, booze-guzzling, dope-snorting, "wifebeater"-wearing Kid Rock that fans love—and there are plenty who do, as this album's Top 10 debut certifies—is best heard here on tracks like "Hillbilly Stomp," with rock hero Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top on "guest vocals and beer" and—better yet—his chest-thumping power anthem "Son of Detroit." He's at his loutish worst on a braying duet with his patron saint Hank Williams Jr. on a song that is just as bad—or not as good, depending on your point of view—as its X-rated title suggests. A track like "Rock n' Roll Pain Train," the album opener, showcases Rock's strengths side-by-side with his gaffes. Lines like "Detroit City back in '99/Stoned out of my mind" are delivered without apology in a rasping, honky-tonk croon that lacks range but is loaded with personality. As a songwriter, Rock has never met a cliché he didn't like: "Stand strong in the storms of life," warbles the philosopher Kid. "The sun will always shine on you." Still, you gotta laugh along with a guy who sings (in "Run Off to L.A.," a Guns N' Roses homage written with Sheryl Crow): "All we need is just a little patience/But what do you do when your woman is too high maintenance?"

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