Album Reviews: The Distance by Taylor HicksRefusing to commit to a location is Taylor Hicks' M.O. on The Distance. The salt-and-pepper haired winner of American Idol, Season Five, has parted ways with J and Arista, the labels that handle the recording contracts of theIdols, but that hasn't razzled, shaken or knocked Hicks off his game. The husky crooner dabbles in pop, blues, country, soul, gospel, Latin and classic rock throughout the whole of The Distance. He's even a balladeer commenting on the Iraq War on the album. By avoiding the trappings of "genre-fication," Hicks is able to be everything to everyone and that's the cultural touchstone upon which American Idol is able to succeed.
Thankfully, Hicks' smoky voice is the reason he avoids being another chunk of manufactured grist for the Idol mill. There's a passion and a sincerity that laces his vocals and while some of the songs are standard, verse-chorus-verse numbers, replete with hearty, back up female vocals to support Hicks' ultra-manly vox, the album never comes across as overly cooked or processed. Hicks' is a bit too real for that and whether that's his saving grace or his downfall remains to be seen, a decision that will be handed down by his public.
The Distance opens with a heartfelt title track that could be about a lover or family members while "Nineteen" ponders the plight of military servicemen. "New Found Freedom" is a positive, life-affirming anthem that basks in the glow of, well, life in general, while “Once Upon a Lover” is infused with Latin, semi-tropical percussion and guitars. Fellow Idol Elliot Yamin pops up on album closer, the funked out duet "Woman's Got to Have It," while "What's Right is Right" resonates with a bit of pop-country twang. The dapper Hicks has the pipes and the ability to plant roots across multiple genres. He's a jack of all trades and actually masters the sounds of the styles he is working in. Ain't nothing wrong with that.
— Amy Sciarretto
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