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Album Review

A too-predictable turn for Daughtry

July 13, 2009
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Rock
Daughtry Leave this Town
RCA
ESSENTIAL “Every Time You Turn Around’’

What gave Chris Daughtry’s performances on “American Idol’’ their appeal was his working-class persona and his steady, sturdy approach to each show. It added up to more than 4 million people responding to his smash debut record.

So if you called “Leave This Town,’’ his familiar-sounding sophomore effort, workmanlike, he’d probably see it as a compliment. Too bad this is disappointingly generic hard rock with virtually the same formula that made his debut such a success.

There are songs about sweating out tough times, learning hard truths, standing strong by his lover, searching for things to believe in . . . how many clichés did we leave out? It’s not a bad record, just a numbingly predictable one. Howard Benson returns as producer, and he keeps things bright and shapely, including the noisy “Every Time You Turn Around’’ with its killer hook.

But Daughtry and Benson know that punch-your-fist in-the-air arena rock (“Ghost of Me’’) and cellphone-waving rockers like “Learn My Lesson’’ are Daughtry’s meat and potatoes, and they serve this up in dollops. Guitarists Brian Craddock and Josh Steely have bite here, but they never draw blood.

The real improvement is in Daughtry’s vocals. The clenched-jaw emoting has given way to genuine singing, and it makes his few attempts at vulnerability believable. Of course, there is the requisite acoustic venture into a quasi-country road song, “Tennessee Line,’’ but you’ve heard this done better a thousand times. The successful first single is called “No Surprise’’ and, frankly, that should have been the title of the album. (Out tomorrow) KEN CAPOBIANCO