At the moment, about the only thing that makes this quintet “outlaws” is that its members have released an Arista album without including a dedication to label head Clive Davis. In a musical sense, the group lies so firmly within traditional bounds that one begins to wonder about the reason for its existence.
Though this new album draws on a few more influences than the Outlaws’ debut LP, the band’s basic dilemma remains unchanged: while its music continues to be eminently commercial and technically quite competent, it seems incapable of coming up with an original idea.
Lyrically, it offers a soporific rehash of what L.A. and Southern country rock bands have been spouting for years. “Stick Around for Rock & Roll,” for instance, is one of those the-music-is-free opuses that work until you remember that you had to pay for the album. And in “Freeborn Man,” the band serves up such stereotypical poses as “I’m a freeborn man, home is on my back, I know every inch of highway . . .”
As for these performances, if you like such bands as the Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Pure Prairie League, you may initially be attracted by the Outlaws’ harmony work, instrumental proficiency and solid, memorable hooks. But after a few listens, the group’s penchant for repeating a catchy riff ad infinitum and calling it a song can become tiresome. And at that point, you may well decide that there’s nothing here that hasn’t been better done by the Outlaws’ progenitors.
Until this band acquires a good writer and musical editor, I’m afraid, a distinctive identity will continue to elude it and its potential prowess will go untapped.