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Album review: Kevin Costner & Modern West

November 11, 2008 |  6:14 pm

Costner_240 Kevin Costner was onstage Saturday night at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, not filming a scene from a new movie but as a working musician, playing songs from his new band’s debut album, which landed in stores this week.

Actors often love music as much as anyone else, but naturally,  there’s suspicion surrounding those who go so far as putting out records on major labels. Costner joins such peers sas Keanu Reeves, Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Johnny Depp in braving the criticism he’s certain to take by forming, and in Costner’s case fronting, a real-world band in his spare time. But if Garth Brooks can exploit his celebrity for a tryout with a major league baseball team, then why shouldn’t Costner spend a little time in his musical field of dreams?

The good news is that he hasn’t embarrassed himself or his cohorts with this rootsy heartland rock effort. The reference points are what you’d expect in that corner of the musical world: Springsteen, Mellencamp, Seger and, most of all, Petty.

Fortunately, while Costner commands the microphone, and strums rhythm guitar, he’s got a solid songwriter in John Coinman, an old musical pal and the primary creative influence here. Costner and other members of Modern West get co-writing credit on several tunes.

The scenarios also chart familiar territory, musically and lyrically: solitary guys pulling out of town on the quest for escape and/or liberation, their adventures on the road, their feelings about falling in and out of love.

The imagery is often nicely atmospheric, and the melodies remain comfortably within the narrow range of Costner’s voice. He sounds at times, as you’d expect, like he’s acting out the songs -- lots of passionately whispered asides -- more than singing them from the inside out, but the all-American boy persona he’s perfected effectively complements the whole enterprise.

-- Randy Lewis 

Kevin Costner & Modern West
“Untold Truths”
(Universal South)
Two and a half stars