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Published: Wednesday, 12/29/2010

Solid Justin McBride saves thrills for the rodeo

In the mold of the late, great rodeo star-cowboy-singer Chris LeDoux, McBride sings genuine, true-to-life cowboy numbers. And, like LeDoux before him, he's the genuine article, living on a working ranch after a long, award-filled career as a professional rodeo star with two world championships for riding bulls.

McBride's second album makes him the 38th artist to record for the "Live At Billy Bob's Texas" series. Now, instead of spurs, he straps on a guitar and performs in a much safer environment, mainly to appreciative crowds who enjoy his career switch.

This new release is a generous two-disc set, with a 19-track CD covering 70 minutes of down-to-earth country and a DVD of McBride performing these songs last July. The DVD also shows several of McBride's highlights atop raging rodeo bulls, plus some interviews. The music is neither new nor earth-shaking, mostly straightforward roadhouse stuff, but McBride's singing is solid throughout with a talented backup band. It's worth hearing and watching.

-- KEN ROSENBAUM

Jamie Foxx's drunken conquest from "Blame It," one of the singles from his last album, apparently gets her revenge on his new effort, "Best Night of My Life." The slow jam "Sleeping Pill" finds Foxx hung over and barely remembering his randy night with a shorty who had her way with him after an Ambien. Of course, Foxx still plays Casanova in his stoned blackout, and the rest of "Best" is a similarly handsy and sonically narcotized collection of surprisingly nimble R&B.

Current radio staple "Winner" sets the template -- big processed drums, creepy synths, and lots of open space for Foxx's capable runs. Trey Songz and Usher have more acrobatic voices, but Foxx has great taste in tracks and knows melodic modesty. "Living Better Now" chops up a Biggie sample a la "A Milli" over a sad, head-bobbing percussive loop; "Fall for Your Type" is lovers' rock for a techno dystopia.

Weirdly, "Best" evokes the early career of Rihanna, where a just-OK voice perfectly nestles into the steely production around it. "Restraint" is an unusual word for one to use in describing an actor's pop album, but even if "Best" is a casual hookup, it's one you'll want to be awake for.

-- AUGUST BROWN, LOS ANGELES TIMES

Productivity has never been an issue for Ryan Adams & the Cardinals. But after the death of the group's longtime bassist, Chris Feinstein, and Adams' own temporary absence from the band, it's taken the Cardinals two years to follow up 2008's "Cardinology" with their latest release, "III/IV."

A collection of unreleased tracks and outtakes from the sessions that produced 2007's "Easy Tiger," "III/IV" is a frustrating return for the often-dynamic Cardinals. Dispensing with any pretense of experimentation, this hefty double album delivers 21 straight forward rock numbers. But it's rare that a double album is worth the doubling, and "III/IV" is no exception; it's just too much of an average thing.

Amid aimless fillers -- "The Crystal Skull," "Dear Candy" -- lie true pleasures, such as the discordant "Happy Birthday" and the Interpol-charged "Ultraviolet Light."

With editing, "III/IV" could have been a welcome addition to Adams' eclectic collection. But with wheat and chaff unseparated, "III/IV" is for Adams obsessives only.

-- EMILY TARTANELLA, THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER



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