Nashville-based singer-songwriter Dave Barnes excels at a funky take on light rock that recalls both John Mayer and Dave Matthews. His recent effort, Chasing Mississippi, is friendly pop/soul that's guaranteed to annoy critics and thrill his growing number of (mostly female) admirers. Aided by Amy Grant and her husband Vince Gill, songs such as "A Lot Like Me" and "Someday Sarah" are hummable concoctions that sometimes lean toward the slick sterility of contemporary Christian music but always find their footing in Barnes' beat-friendly abandon. There's nothing too deep or involved here--just crisp tempos, dynamic singing and earnestly romantic odes to a life of relatively clean living. Cynics may scoff as Barnes has a tendency to come off a little too endearing for his own good, but the natural optimism of his material stands out amongst the inexhaustible collection of artists who delight in being jaded.
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