On "Just As I Am," Brantley Gilbert clings to his small-town status like a badge of honor. The Jefferson, Ga., native is country proud, but his worldview has expanded beyond the "Kick It in the Sticks" mentality he grasped on his second set, 2010's "Halfway to Heaven." The new album's 11 songs embrace the notion that today's country fans - and artists like the 29-year-old Gilbert - cut their musical teeth on rock and metal just as much as on Garth Brooks (himself a Kiss acolyte).

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