If anybody could save the honky-tonk, it's Mark Chesnutt.

If anybody could save the honky-tonk, it's Mark Chesnutt. Arguably the purest hardcore country singer to break in the video age, he drops any pretension of being a country pop artist with his debut Vivaton release. This is a good thing: Chesnutt laments the demise of the tonks in the steel-drenched "Somebody Save the Honky Tonks" and offers lessons in rationalization with "The Lord Loves a Drinkin' Man" and "I'm a Saint." He is equally in his element on a cheatin' song ("A Hard Secret to Keep"), country waltz ("Then We Can All Go Home") and in George Jones country ("Since You Ain't Home"). This is the most country record Nashville is likely to turn out all year.—RW