Artist:  Josh Bates
Title:  "Perfect Day"
Label:  Beach Street Records

Some seven years ago, Mark Miller, front man for veteran country group Sawyer Brown, discovered a 15-year-old bjust looking for a chance. After years of coaching and nurturing, he has been given that chance with "Perfect Day," his debut album on Miller’s Beach Street Records, home also to the greatly successful Casting Crowns.

Although Bates’ list of influences includes bluegrass artists such as Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs and Bill Monroe, "Perfect Day" is pure pop/rock, full of electric guitar riffs and pop hooks. Anytime the rock elements emerge, his shiny, “American Idol” vocals pull the album back to pop. In that, the album is reminiscent of Steven Curtis Chapman’s "Speechless" and "Declaration" discs – pop, but never too far away from the edge to rock out. And while Bates’ vocal print is similar to Chapman as well, there is little trace of the drum loops, programming or other progressive elements of those Chapman projects.

All 10 songs are highly polished and carefully sculpted, no doubt with radio in mind. But this high gloss keeps it from getting too far out of the box, a desirable attribute that it misses. And that’s a problem for "Perfect Day" – you can’t help but wish it would take more risks. At times, the material gets close to that edge, like the guitar backbone of “Walking Through the Fire” and the forceful pre-chorus of “Alive.” The balladry of “Less” and “Prodigal” are respectable pace-changers, but “Never Give Up” fails to develop into much.

Lyrically, the album is predictable, and only half the songs were even co-written by Bates. Also, he is rumored to excel on various acoustic instruments; but he seems to be on a short leash, and you only get typical acoustic rhythm guitar and rationed amounts of mandolin. While the album is a good listen and a good start for Bates, you can’t help but wonder what "Perfect Day" could have been.


 
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