Mark Chesnutt

Save an unfortunate if hugely successful one-off in Diane Warren territory, no one ever accused Mark Chesnutt of going pop.

Save an unfortunate if hugely successful one-off in Diane Warren territory, no one ever accused Mark Chesnutt of going pop. Instead, he is absolutely one of traditional country's very best singers, and he proves it on every cut of his Columbia debut. A master of the modern-day honky-tonker, Chesnutt thumps mightily on "Don't Know Why I Do It" and twangs with soul on "Good Night to Be Lonely." He also knows how to take ownership of a well-drawn country ballad: "She Was" simply exudes emotion; "I'm in Love With a Married Woman" is a tender, quavering ode to wedded bliss; and "You'd Be Wrong" is solid country gold. There have been an alarming number of attempts at redneck rap, but no one has pulled it off quite like Chesnutt does on "Population Minus One." And "My Dreams" is a trippy delight. If country radio doesn't lap this up, it seriously needs to call itself something other than "country radio."—RW