Shedding some of the big-booted affectations and sticky sentimentalism of his 2009 debut while sharpening his musical attack, Justin Moore
takes a leap forward on his second album, 2011’s Outlaws Like Me
. Which isn’t to say Moore
can’t resist succumbing some small-town pandering -- he fetishizes pickup truck and bait, offers the NRA a potential anthem in “Guns” (“as long as I’m alive and breathing/you won’t take my guns”) -- nor has his voice suddenly gained muscle or grit but, contrary to its title, Outlaws Like Me
doesn’t rely heavily on macho boasts, so he’s able to deliver these songs easily with his clean tenor twang. Much of the echoing, arena-ready stomp of his debut has been sanded away, leaving a leaner country-rock that can convincingly dip its toe in hardcore country à la David Allan Coe
(“If You Don’t Like My Twang”). These tougher numbers -- the ones written in the outlaw tradition Moore
claims to be heir apparent -- are the best moments here because the music packs a punch that carries through on the promise of Moore
’s braggadocio, a situation that rarely happened on his debut, but happens enough here to make this a much better record.