Picks and Pans Review: Spend My Time

updated 03/08/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/08/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

Clint Black
COUNTRY
CRITIC'S CHOICE

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On his first studio album since 1999's D'Lectrified, Clint Black shows that there's more going on underneath his cowboy hat than some might have realized. Indeed, the country veteran practically waxes philosophical on this appealingly smart disc. Maybe it's advancing age (he's 42). Maybe it's fatherhood (he has a 2-year-old daughter, Lily Pearl, with actress wife Lisa Hartman Black). Or maybe it's just that he has been around long enough to comfortably experiment. While Black once sang about "Killin' Time" on his 1989 debut of the same name, here he sings, "I'm gonna spend my time like it's going out of style" on the easygoing title track. The singer, who had a hand in writing all 12 songs, also gets reflective on the rueful "What Ever Happened?" and the unapologetic "A Lover's Clown."

Not that Black has forgotten how to loosen up after all these years, though. The catchy "The Boogie Man," which he cowrote with accomplished com poser Will Jennings ("My Heart Will Go On"), is as playful and honky-tonky a tune as Black has ever recorded, spiced by his own harmonica playing, Matt Rollings's boogie-woogie piano and Brent Mason's fluid guitar. Meanwhile, "Just Like You and Me" is warm and fuzzy enough to join Black's catalog of memorable romantic songs. For long time fans, Spend My Time is gratifying, and for the uninitiated, it serves as an inviting introduction to this reliably entertaining country artist.

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