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Rick Redington & The Luv Machine, Mother Earth 

(Self-released, CD)

Central Vermont-based singer, guitarist and songwriter Rick Redington is a genuinely nice guy. Makes me wish I could say all nice things about his fourth solo album, Mother Earth.

I can say a couple. The second half of the album is definitely stronger than the first. And Redington plays some fine acoustic guitar throughout, although he's better off picking than strumming Hootie & the Blowfish-style chords.

Redington produced the disc himself, and it sounds crisp and professional. Still, an outside producer might've helped. Artists often need someone to separate the gems from the clunkers. In Redington's case, this might have resulted in eight or nine of his strongest cuts being featured and the rest set aside.

A producer can get the best vocal takes as well. Redington has a solid voice, but it can be uneven. He even goes flat on some of the early tracks -- not a great way to start a record. He's at his best on closing cut "Right Where You Belong," on which his singing ranges from a James Taylor-ish croon to a Charlie Daniels-esque growl. Unfortunately, the song fades too abruptly, as if he tried to cram too much onto the disc and ran out of space.

There are other standouts, however. The piano-based "Blink of an Eye" provides some of Mother Earth's sweetest moments. But at a mere 2-and-a-half minutes, it feels too short. The acoustic instrumental "Frosty" features some crafty guitar and mandolin work by Redington. It would've been nice to hear more of this kind of thing.

With the exception of a few choice numbers, the album consists largely of pleasant but pedestrian country-rock. Here's hoping that, next time, Redington crafts songs that stand out a bit more.

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