NPR logo First Listen: Keith Urban, 'Get Closer'

First Listen: Keith Urban, 'Get Closer'

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Max Vadukul

Keith Urban

Max Vadukul

Keith Urban is a curious phenomenon: an Australian who specializes in Americana, a humble everyman who happens to be married to Nicole Kidman, and a country singer whose music shimmers with seemingly effortless cheer. But why shouldn't it? Having converted all of those contradictions into massive commercial success — and several Grammy wins — Urban's life is not exactly the stuff of the blues.

The singer-guitarist's new eight-song album, Get Closer, could just as easily bear the title Songs For Nicole Kidman, Who Is My Wife. In both its bouncily upbeat rockers ("Put You in a Song," "Long Hot Summer") and its languid ballads ("All for You," "Right on Back to You"), Get Closer finds Urban voicing his intense devotion; it's no surprise that the photo on the back cover displays the couple's wedding rings prominently.

As straightforward as Urban's poppy country might seem at first blush, it's no small feat that these tracks feel as lived-in as they do: Country music falls flat if it's not relatable, and Urban almost always finds a way to make songs for his movie-star wife sound like radio-ready odes to top-down teenage bliss. Get Closer could stand a 6:2 rockers-to-ballads ratio instead of the 5:3 balance heard here — "Without You" is an uncharacteristically egregious example of the "We're obscenely rich, and yet we've managed to make it work" subgenre — but that's a minor quibble with what's otherwise one of 2010's most agreeable and winning country records.

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Get Closer will stream here for a week after its release on Nov. 16. Please leave your thoughts on the album in the comments section below.