That said, Capitol throws everything into the ring this time out by issuing a pair of leadoff singles in the tight little rocker "Kiss a Girl" and the shimmering, reverb-laden guitar workout "Sweet Thing," which is disguised as a midtempo power ballad. Both are 21st century equivalents of rock & roll love songs that echo everyone from Tom Petty to Greg Kihn, and even a bit of Dwight Twilley -- though this is clearly not conscious. As radio tracks, they are smart picks, especially with the clever guitar and banjo interplay -- Urban has transformed the role of the backwoods and in-the-hills instrument into a respectable part of the rock & roll toolbox. There are some proper ballads on the disc as well, such as the haunting, nocturnal, and dreamily textured "The Summer Comes Around," his nakedly emotional paean to wife Nicole Kidman ("Thank You") that closes the set, and the shuffling "Only You Can Love Me This Way." The skittering drum loop that undergirds the guitar and Rolling Stones-esque "doo-doo" chorus in "I'm In" makes it an excellent choice for a fourth single, and the clipped pedal steel, distorted electric guitars that careen in the bridge, and shuffling percussion make the finger-popping "Why It Feels So Long" "feel" like a contemporary country take on of one of Bruce Springsteen's boulevard songs, or John Mellencamp's "Cherry Bomb." In sum, Defying Gravity builds on the skill set that gave listeners Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing and takes it further, seamlessly combining hook-laden crafty songwriting with a pop sensibility in the modern country vernacular that blazes a new trail, underscoring Duke Ellington's dictum that there are only two kinds of music: good and bad. This is a shining case in point for the former.
Thom Jurek, Rovi