Matt Kennon, "Matt Kennon"
Matt Kennon got his first taste of acceptance in country music when Randy Travis recorded his song "Turn It Around." On Kennon's self-titled debut, the artist demonstrates there's as much substance and emotion in his singing as in his songwriting. There's a gritty soulfulness that resonates warmly in such tunes as "The Man I Used to Be," and it serves him even better on honest declarations like "Some People Piss Me Off." And the opener, "Drive It Like You Stole It," is a high-octane number that encourages living every moment to the fullest, while single "The Call" (co-penned by Kennon) is a poignant ballad about the power of a phone call. (In the first verse, a man who's about to commit suicide puts the gun down when he gets a call from his best friend, and the second verse involves a teenage girl about to have an abortion.) With a distinctive voice that won't be confused with anyone else on country radio, Kennon has delivered a potent album that makes him a newcomer to watch. --Deborah Evans Price