Taylor Hicks – “Seven Mile Breakdown”

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Season five American Idol winner Taylor Hicks is a Birmingham, Alabama, native whose 2006 debut album has sold over 1,000,000 copies, despite failing to chart a single top-ten hit (save “Do I Make You Proud,” which he sang on the Idol finale). Hicks recently separated from Arista records, and his sophomore, self-issued album The Distance has sold around 25,000 copies.

Fortunately, there’s at least one last hope for any faltering, over-30 pop star.

“Seven Mile Breakdown,” the second single from The Distance (which features songs written or co-written by Gary Nicholson, Delbert McClinton and Jeffrey Steele, among others) can be considered country in the same sense that a cross between Bob Seger and Mark Cohn could be considered country. So, not at all—even though it features an obligatory “delta” reference.

Still, Hicks channels the adult, piano-driven groove that is a staple of artists from the tradition in which he follows, and he’s a good enough singer (and is blessed with enough charisma) to handle the material more than satisfactorily.

And frankly, despite the fact that this isn’t country, it presents a sound that would serve as a refreshing change of pace when compared to modern country’s typical slick-as-a-baby’s-bottom fluff. It wouldn’t be a terrible thing, after all, to have a little bit of actual soul in a format that boasts a legion of new singers claiming a “soulful” voice.

Unfortunately, the song itself is just a mess. Hicks says something about small towns, the sun sinking down on the delta, and Mississippi, but it’s hard to figure out what exactly he’s talking about. By the time he sings, “Don’t you know we’ll get through this, baby/I just don’t see how/You know it’s written on the faces of every little passing town,” we’re left feeling as lost as he seems to be, with no definite answer as to what’s going on. Is the singer of this song even in Mississippi, or this all some big, convoluted metaphor?

Although Hicks’ voice is gritty, the track pounds too hard, too fast and too loud. Bring those flaws together with a vague and disjointed lyric and the result is a song that has a delta sound but little delta flavor; we can’t feel the mud between our toes or taste the crawdads or see the eyes of a gator peering up from the dark water.

Hicks has soul, but this record doesn’t. It’s a disappointing entry from one of American Idol’s least disappointing attempt-a-crossover artists.

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