Dallas' own Thomas King Cone IV distills the sounds of such disparate acts as Dwight Yoakam and Dire Straits into radio-friendly retro-country that should be his ticket to a larger audience. Cone's male model good looks may actually serve as a distraction from his quality songwriting as his growing (mostly female) fan base looks more for style than substance. Gallery, Cone's sophomore effort, is about as good as pop country/rock can get, featuring clichéd titles ("Here Comes Your Heartache," "Go With Me," "Through Your Door") that in fact move beyond the rote to reveal a surprising level of introspection. Add in a large, top-notch backing band, and Cone ends up sounding like a clean, preppy version of Steve Earle. At only 24, Cone is capable of subverting the formula and making music that, while definitely slick, can move beyond the frivolities of the likes of Garth Brooks and into places where art and commerce can coexist with integrity coming out (slightly) ahead.
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