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Published: Wednesday, 8/11/2010

Charlie Daniels sings love songs to the U.S.

BLADE STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES

Daniels parades these gems through nearly an hour of no-nonsense lyrics that pay homage to the greatness of our country, its soldiers, flag, farmers, heroes, and tribulations through wars and other societal battles. If you are the slightest bit uneasy about such a heavy dose of patriotic feelings, this isn't for you.

Included are newly recorded versions of "Iraq Blues" and "(What This World Needs Is) A Few More Rednecks 2010." Most songs are Daniels classics often requested in his busy touring schedule of concerts. If you haven't heard it before, you may especially enjoy Daniels' version of "Red Skelton's Pledge of Allegiance," a moving, patriotic classic from 1969. It's not nearly as good as Skelton's take, but outstanding nevertheless.

- KEN ROSENBAUM

At the ripe old age of 31, Andy McKee has done the unlikely thing of distinguishing himself as an intriguing, fascinating, and inventive master of the acoustic guitar.

There are thousands of guys on street corners and in coffee shops plucking away folk melodies, love songs, protest songs, and impassioned ballads, so what makes McKee so unique, especially with no vocals?

Just awesome, old-school finger-picking, strumming, and tapping, plus the sound of a hand-built, 12-string harp guitar he plays on some songs. Included on this disc is a cool acoustic cover of the Tears for Fears' song "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," although the vast majority of the album is original material showcasing McKee's finger-dancing on guitar frets.

McKee is now officially a YouTube sensation with well over 80 million hits to the many songs he has posted, one of which alone, called "Drifting," is one of YouTube's most viewed ever and was on the verge of reaching the 32 million mark earlier this week.

Another 14 of his songs have been seen by a million or more YouTube viewers. The self-taught guitarist from Topeka plays with immense passion and verve. He finished third in the 2001 National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship, the year he released his debut album, and is modest about his success.

In an age of flashy Lady Gaga-style artists and gadgetry, McKee is a refreshing throwback. This is his fifth album. He's performed on Josh Groban's multiplatinum album, "Noel," and plays some 200 shows a year. Included with the "Joyland" disc is a 75-minute DVD that includes a documentary and performances.

- TOM HENRY

Sometimes first impressions aren't exactly right.

Though Mike Posner's smash single "Cooler Than Me" suggests that he might be 3OH!3's brainier little brother or Ke$ha's self-deprecating male counterpart, the recent Duke University graduate's debut album "31 Minutes to Take Off" actually has far more in common with Justin Timberlake and Usher.

Posner plays the new-millennium soulman in "Do You Wanna," riffing off a Ray LaMontagne horn sample and selling the loping groove like he's the love child of Otis Redding and Macy Gray. He holds his own with Boyz II Men, who back him up on "Deja Vu" and give him a sweet response to his sometimes expletive-laden calls. On "Synthesizer," Posner stretches a bit too far for a hook to get "Don't synthesize her, don't redesign her" into the synthy-soul ballad.

But before people started getting the idea that he's an old-school soul cat, Posner quickly makes sure to act his age - in the catchy come-on "Bow Chicka Wow Wow" or the retaliatory "Cheated."

It's those unusual juxtapositions on "31 Minutes to Take Off" that push Posner to the front of the soul-pop line ahead of the recent chart-toppers Jay Sean, Iyaz, and Bruno Mars. If he keeps the rest of his career this fresh, Posner's takeoff should be exceedingly smooth.

- GLENN GAMBOA, NEWSDAY



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