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LEE BRICE

THE NEW YORK TIMES

There’s not likely to be a tougher country album this year than Lee Brice’s debut, “Love Like Crazy” (Curb). Ignore the title track, a pleasant enough inspirational number featuring left-field culture-clash lyrics about a tech entrepreneur who “sold his one-man shop to Microsoft/And they paid like crazy.” Most of the rest of the time this is a fantastically muscular album of rootsy power country. Mr. Brice can veer to the gentle, as on the lovely “She Ain’t Right,” but he’s better huffing and howling. “Carolina plowboy/Ain’t had a free summer since I was 10 years old,” he sings on “Picture of Me.” And all that farm labor has made Mr. Brice a bruiser. “I saw him swallow his pride,” he sings, rapid fire, on “Carolina Boys.” “And I looked deep in his eyes/And he decided he didn’t want to take this outside.” Even when Mr. Brice flashes a hint of vulnerability, as on “Some Things,” it only serves to remind how callused he is: “Me? Oh yeah/Yeah, I’ve been doing fine/You should know me well enough to know I’m lying.”