Record Review 

Every once in a while, a professional songwriter crosses the line and releases an album of his own. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. After years spent turning out hits for other Nashville artists, Elbert West gets his chance with Livin' the Life. This one works.

West is clearly from the old school, and his debut is as country as cornbread. His rich voice is surrounded by hot pedal steel licks, spicy fiddles, and an energetic rhythm section that knows when to play and when not to. Produced by former V-Roy Scott Miller, the record takes advantage of contemporary technology while retaining enough roughness to give it sufficient authenticity.

Sticking to the traditional country themes, West maintains a safe perspective on life, traveling, romance and, of course, women. He pushes the PC envelope a bit with the marginally misogynistic "Unpredictable," but nails the pain of loss in "This One's Gonna Leave a Mark." Oddly, the album's weakest track, "Diddley" -- the only one not written by West -- has been released as a single. But don't let that scare you off. Song for song, this may be one of the best country albums of the year.

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