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'Ticket to L.A.' review: Brett Young's ticket to country superstardom

Brett Young's "Ticket to L.A." on Big Machine

Brett Young's "Ticket to L.A." on Big Machine Records. Credit: Big Machine Records

BRETT YOUNG

Ticket to L.A.

BOTTOM LINE An upbeat mix of L.A. polish and Nashville earnestness

Brett Young is one of those artists who seem almost too good to be true.

A 6’6” former college pitcher who turned to music after a career-ending elbow injury, Young cut his artistic teeth in the singer-songwriter clubs of his hometown of Los Angeles before moving to Nashville to pursue country music. And those roots show in the reigning Academy of Country Music New Male Vocalist’s sophomore album “Ticket to L.A.” (Big Machine Label Group) as he strikes a balance between the different, but complementary styles of music.

The pop-leaning title track could have come from “Your Body Is a Wonderland”-era John Mayer, as Young tells a sweet story about meeting a woman at Kennedy Airport after their flights are delayed. The new single “Catch” has bits of Hootie & The Blowfish mixed with a late-‘90s singer-songwriter vibe. And he even teams with Gavin DeGraw for the pop-rock “Chapters” that has an Ed Sheeran feel.

That Young can blend so much pop into his sound and still manage to be a major country up-and-comer shows how much both styles have changed in recent years. Country embraces outside influences much more than it used to, while pop radio doesn’t seem to have much room for guys with guitars who aren’t redheaded Brits.

However, Young is actually strongest when he sticks closer to classic country. The gorgeous throwback “Where You Want Me” sounds like a great Ronnie Milsap single from the ‘70s, while the stripped-down “Change Your Name” has the timely feel of Chris Stapleton, though Young sticks with his clever wordplay, singing, “Only thing about you that I’d change, I’d change your name.”

Regardless of the style he uses, Young, who co-wrote 10 of the album’s 13 tracks, tells his stories well. And “Ticket to L.A.” will likely be his ticket to country superstardom.

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