Sounds like … bold, heartrending pop/rock songs that would be as welcome in a big arena as they would be during a coffee shop's open mic night.

At a glance … this former member of the duo LaRue steps out on his own for the first time and the results are potent and moving.

Phillip LaRue is adopting a more mature look on the cover of his debut solo album. Just compare the unshaven, rugged face staring out from the front of Let The Road Pave Itself with the face that graced the cover of the three albums from LaRue, the duo he co-created with his sister Natalie. On those albums, his face is the figure of innocence, all smooth skin and baleful eyes.

Listening to the music that these covers accompany reveals that the change in expression and demeanor (not to mention the few days' growth of stubble) befits the change in Phillip LaRue's approach to songwriting.

LaRue's music tended to have a youthful simplicity to it. They tapped into the sound of the early '00s with sunny melodies and harmonies that were crafted for instant radio airplay and easy absorption on a casual listen. Lyrically, too, the duo looked constantly ahead and beyond themselves, singing about finding the perfect spouse ("Someday") or asking somewhat childlike questions about the nature of God ("Summertime").

But for his first foray as a solo artist, Phillip exhibits a remarkable amount of growth and maturity. The music has a slightly bombastic but earthy quality to it, taking pages from the playbooks of groups like Snow Patrol and Doves. And on "Don't Be Deceived" and "Deeper Side of You," he even adds a string section to give those aching songs that extra twinge of wistfulness.

Phillip matches this new sound with lyrics that express more adult concerns and struggles. When he's not sending out paeans to his wife ("Sleeping Beauty," "You're All I Want"), he urges a dying relative to let go of this mortal coil on the shuffling "Black and Blue" and uses "Before The Sun Goes Down" to lay out his flaws for all to see ("I want to say what I feel when I'm feeling it/I want to feel what I say when I'm saying it/But the words don't come out").

This is hardly a perfect effort from Phillip LaRue (many of the midtempo tracks tend to become indistinguishable from one another after a while), but it is an album where the talented singer/songwriter proves he can stand on his own and is still capable of producing some amazing, heartfelt music. Growing up has never sounded so good.

Let The Road Pave Itself
Our Rating
4 Stars - Excellent
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Release Date
April 7, 2009
BEC Recordings
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