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Michael Stanley 

American Road (Line Level Music)

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American Road is one giant wink from Michael Stanley to the fans who have stuck with him since the days of sold-out performances at Blossom. It's also enjoyable mostly for the uninitiated.

While some pieces are very '80s backyard-barbecue rock, many more hint at Stanley's maturity and current retrospective mood. The wryly deft "Backing up Sally G," a story about a backup singer for a local rocker playing to blue-collar fans, crosses over into bluesy territory. "The Times We Had" is Stanley at his best -- it's a ballad, but keeps from being saccharine or cliché. Put it up there with "Lover." American Road's final cut, "Home Tonight," is destined to be the last thing anyone hears at Michael Stanley concerts until the end of time. Wistful and emotive, it works as both a goodbye to a barful of people and a farewell from Stanley himself -- if only until the next reunion tour. "I've made my peace with this highway," he sings in "Home." Well, it's about time.

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