Keith Urban's 'Ripcord' is hodgepodge of musical directions

Keith Urban, "Ripcord" (Capitol Nashville)

Having finished his run as an "American Idol" judge, Keith Urban leaps into "Ripcord," the most eclectic, genre-spanning album of his career. Like "Idol," Urban's new songs are a little bit country, a little bit rock, a little bit R&B and a lot of glossy, carefully arranged pop.

With 10 producers involved, "Ripcord" is a hodgepodge of musical directions. Singing with new vigor and range, the Australian-raised country singer sounds best when leaning on old-school R&B.

He brings a soulful touch to "Break on Me" and his duet with Carrie Underwood on "The Fighter" sounds like a modern update of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. The organ and single-note guitar on "Blue Ain't Your Color" follows Chris Stapleton into a contemporary style of country blues.

Elsewhere, Urban strains to fit into a hip sound. The hit "Gettin' in the Way" is a clever song about desire, but the generic group choruses dampen the joy. He stands his ground with Pitbull on the hip-hop lite of "Sun Don't Let Me Down," but it sounds more like an exercise than a celebration.

An experimental approach is commendable for a veteran artist. Despite the uneven results, "Ripcord" pays off more often than not.


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