Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Garth Brooks: Ropin' the Wind [Capitol, 1991]
As El Lay song doctors process NutraSweet, textured cellulose, and natural fruit flavors through a web of synthbites, a Nashville neotraditionalist thrice-removed wins a nation's heart standing up for the studio-pop verities. After scoring one of those songfests Nashville sneaks past us urbanites in 1989, he bet the farm on the follow-up and won over a country audience in the market for their own style of schlock. Here, Backed by apparently living session men as he imitates now Merle, now George (Strait), now Charlie (Daniels), he picks sure-shots from the if-you-say-so rebellious "Against the Grain" to the if-you-say-so soulful Billy Joel cover, and now and then he helps write one: the light-hearted death-to-cheaters yarn "Papa Loved Mama," or the marriage counselor's theme "We Bury the Hachet" ("And leave the handle stickin' out"). Last album he landed only three; this time there are maybe six, plus a couple of marginals. Ergo, this one's twice as good. A-