Taylor Hicks, Self Titled

by: Elisabeth Vincentelli

The least you can say about Taylor Hicks is that he’s not like prior American Idol champs: he already had almost a decade of gigging in bars when he won the fifth season in 2006, complete with songwriting experience, an ability to play harmonica and guitar, and a pair of self-released albums.

On his major-label debut, the Silver Fox settles in a plush, comfortable sound framed by vintage-sounding soul and R&B, as well as classic rock–it’s comfort food for the ears. The one thing that’s not here is Hicks’s first single, “Do I Make You Proud.” Other than that, the songs are a well-balanced mix of oldies (Marvin Gaye’s “Wherever I Lay My Hat”), newbies that sound like oldies (Rob Thomas’s “Dream Myself Awake,” Bryan Adams’s “The Right Place”), the obligatory Diane Warren ballad (“Places I’ve Been”), and some party-fun anthems (“The Runaround,” “Heaven Knows”).

This last track actually is one of two paying tribute to Hicks’s patron saint, Ray Charles–it references the piano riff from “What’d I Say,” while “The Right Place” was originally written for Charles. Clearly, there are worse people to look up to.

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