Music Review: Staind’s Aaron Lewis goes country

Aaron Lewis, “Town Line” (Stroudavarious)

Rock singers have occasionally recorded country songs since ... well, the beginning of rock ’n’ roll. But Aaron Lewis, lead singer of heavy metal band Staind, is the least likely to cross that line since James Hetfield of Metallica joined Hank Williams Jr. onstage for a tribute to outlaw music.

Indeed, Lewis references Hank Jr. in the plainly stated “Country Boy,” the first single from his solo country EP, “Town Line.” Lewis sometimes leans to the rocking side of country, using crashing drums and thrashing guitar chords reminiscent of Jason Aldean. But his talents as a country singer surface just as convincingly on the tender “Tangled Up in You” and in “Massachusetts,” a mid-tempo ode to traditional family concerns.

If anything, the song “Country Boy” oversells Lewis’ connection to the rural lifestyle too stridently, harping on pickup trucks, down-home values, freedom, and a belligerent attitude toward anyone critical of his principles.

But when the singer’s deeply textured croon settles into a more pastoral sound, the country boy in Lewis emerges more persuasively. He injects a flavor of his own into a polished, commercial country sound in a way that could win over country fans who’ve never heard of Staind.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: “The Story Never Ends” pairs a melodic guitar riff with a steel-guitar counterpoint while celebrating the laid-back small town in Massachusetts where Lewis resides. He uses specific names and details, but the intimate portrait will resonate with anyone who has established lasting roots where they were born.

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