Wasn't Josh Gracin that country-singing Marine from American Idol's second season? How did that jarhead land himself a recording contract? Well, actually, it's a lot easier to understand than you might think: While Simon, Randy, and the eternally narcotized Paula have never really understood the relevance of country music to Middle America's average Wal-Mart shopper, Nashville's soulless Music Row always has -- even before there were Wal-Marts! Gracin, with his aspirations of following in Garth Brooks' footsteps, was a perfect fit, which is probably why Lyric Street Records snatched him up after he was voted off by America. His subsequent eponymous debut was recorded while still on active duty with the Marine Corps and is, for better or worse, a direct result of the country-pop tradition spawned by Brooks and Shania Twain; any sense of true country grit -- hell, any sense of the genre pre-Brooks/Twain -- was produced out of the album in favor of a county-fair-friendly sonic repertoire that'll make Rascal Flatts and Lonestar fans coo.
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