Perhaps nobody was as surprised by Rod Stewart's return to songwriting as Rod Stewart. Rod hadn't bothered composing a tune in nearly two decades when he decided to write a brand new bunch of songs for 2013's Time, an album inspired in part by his 2012 memoir Rod: The Autobiography. Arriving after ten years of Great American Songbook albums, the change in style and song was refreshing, something fans (and some critics) noted. People pleaser that he is, Stewart decided to give them what they wanted for Another Country: another set of originals, augmented by a slyly chosen cover in Steve Harley's "A Friend for Life" (on the Deluxe Edition, he shows a bit of cheek by once again singing Python Lee Jackson's "In a Broken Dream," which he sang back in 1978). The success of Time loosened Stewart up a bit, so he takes some relative chances, moves that amount to a little bit of reggae ("Love and Be Love"), a Mumford & Sons stomp ("Hold the Line"), a sideways allusion to his MTV past (the synths on "Walking in the Sunshine"), cuts that rock a bit harder than anything on its predecessor ("Please"), and songs that triple-down on Stewart's sentimental streak. Never afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, the stickiness of "Batman Superman Spiderman" -- a song written for his four-year-old son, who slumbers surrounded by dolls of Woody & Buzz and super heroes -- is nevertheless alarming, as is his overcooked football anthem "We Can Win." As goofy as these numbers are, there's also something appealing about them: Stewart isn't afraid to be an old softie, and hearing him be an easy touch on his own cornball terms is endearing. Usually, he reels in his inclination to go a bit over the top, but this is still an album of love and family, one that's set to songs with slight Celtic and country lilts. He's not the man he was back in 1969, when his folk was simpler and hungrier, but he's not pretending to be. At 70, he's a content superstar taking stock of his life, where he is and where he's been ("The Drinking Song" is not boisterous, but a country song where he takes stock of what boozing cost), and it feels true to who he is today: an entertainer who is happy to reveal part of his heart because he now knows there's an audience who cares. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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