RCA newcomer Jeff Bates has done some livin', and it shows in both his muscular baritone and his strong songwriting.

RCA newcomer Jeff Bates has done some livin', and it shows in both his muscular baritone and his strong songwriting. From such boisterous midtempos as "Country Enough" and "Lovin' Like That" to such soulful, well-rendered ballads as debut single "The Love Song" and powerful, Twitty-esque cuts like "Your Lovin' Talks to Me," Bates comes off like a veteran. He is that rare singer that sounds familiar on first listen, a trait that serves him well on the cool-as-hell "My Mississippi," working man swamp-rocker "Already Spent," and the powerful title cut, a heartfelt bio that's too real to be fiction. Finishing touches like a white-trash honk in "My Inlaws Are Outlaws" and the tender "The Wings of Mama's Prayers" wrap up one of the year's best country albums.—RW