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Perfect World (KrekTone Music)
Tim Krekel

By Allen Howie

In the title song from Perfect World, Tim Krekel pretty much defines his approach to life: "Follow the music and you will find me there." The singer's own muse has led him across the country and halfway around the world for two decades and it's our good fortune that his path has led him back to the banks of the Ohio for awhile.

With a keen eye for the telling detail and a lyrical way with words, Krekel might have been an author, observing human nature in all its dubious glory like some modern-day Mark Twain. Instead, he was bitten by the rock and roll bug that infected so many in his generation. After years on the road with kindred spirit Jimmy Buffett and a score of others, watching record deals come and go while writing hits for some of country music's best-known names, the Louisville native pauses for a moment to reflect on where he's been, making in the process a perfect summer album.

Perfect World offers eleven unplugged slices of back-porch melody, a cool summer breeze that will pick you up and whisk your cares away. Every song is graced by Krekel's melodic guitar and pleasantly familiar voice, a combination perfectly suited to the warmly personal tales he spins.

While the title track acknowledges his devotion to music, the subsequent "I Love You" is an unabashed declaration of love that finds a sweet dignity where others might get syrupy. "The Lesson" is a pretty ballad that's as well-written as anything you'll find on the country charts (and better than most), while "Lilly's place" is a bittersweet reflection on the way things change over the years, not always for the better. And your toes will start tapping all on their own at the tongue-in-cheek "California Woman," which mines familiar pop territory with sly good humor.

Part of the charm of Krekel's music is the clarity with which it recalls the innocence of youth, a trip the singer makes time and again on songs like "The Big Wide Open." His reminiscing takes on a soft Latin swing in the lovely "Kentucky Samba," with its haunting melody and hushed Spanish guitar, then continues with the playful "Mason Dixon Buckaroo," and right on into the sweet street-corner melody of "West End Story." What keeps these trips down memory lane from lapsing into mere nostalgia is the way Krekel uses the smallest details to set you traveling down the road of your own lost youth.

The good-natured "happy trails" goofiness of "Heading for the Hollywood Hills" brings the album back to the present. But the true measure of an album is how often you want to hear it.

By the time this record closes with the calm reassurance of "The Storm of Love," you're ready to start the journey all over again, heading out for one more stroll through Tim Krekel's Perfect World.