Even amid a bumper crop of promising male country artists, Brad Martin is impressive.

Even amid a bumper crop of promising male country artists, Brad Martin is impressive. He's a honky-tonk belter with backbone, evoking whiskey and women with equal passion. The well-produced "Before I Knew Better" and slammin' "Rub Me the Right Way" offer love's redemption for hell raisers and construction workers, respectively, then the title cut comes in as a classic country waltz rendered with style. Martin, to his credit, ably handles the drinkin' jams: swirling acoustics and effective production provide a suitable framework for the stark lyrics and killer vocal of the neo-classic "The Fifth," and then he really twangs with authority on the swaggering "Damn the Whiskey." Elsewhere, "Just Like Love" skews a little too poppish, but then "That's a Woman" is a lush, atmospheric ballad that works quite well. Attitude, guitars, and a keg of pent-up aggression wrap things up nicely, if too early, on the Southern rocker "The Wait." Ten cuts ain't enough of this strong stuff. Hopefully, Martin won't keep the world waiting too long for a follow-up, as he's really on to something here.—RW

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