When an artist’s second release falls short of expectations, a great deal of time and energy is often devoted to analyzing, philosophizing and theorizing about the reasons — e.g, the artist had their lifetime to create the first batch of songs and only a year or two to create the second, they strayed from a successful formula or stayed with an unsuccessful one. The “Sophomore Slump”, it’s often called. Suffice it to say this is a subject with which George Ducas will not become familiar.
With his self-titled debut in 1994, Ducas found his own little corner of country music which might be best described as “smart country.” While the hit single “Lipstick Promises” was decidedly more pop than country, it opened the door to an album full of well-crafted, articulate songs and distanced him from the faux-twang, hat-hunk pack. Add to that a year of nonstop touring with the likes of the Mavericks, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Alan Jackson, and this would be a tough act to follow by any measure.
But Where I Stand shows Ducas was up to the task. Although it has its country moments (and some fine ones at that), the second outing leans a little further to the pop side of the fence. On the opening one-two punch of “Every Time She Passes By” and “Long Trail Of Tears”, and later with “Stay The Night” and “Heartaches And Dreams”, he displays a keen sense of melody that makes his music incredibly infectious.
When Ducas does journey down the country road, his clear and powerful voice makes it an enjoyable trip. On Buddy and Julie Miller’s “I’m Pretending” and his own “The Invisible Man”, Ducas proves he’s equally credible singing straight country. Colored with the big guitar sound of producer Richard Bennett and assisted by an impressive list of guests (including Bill Lloyd, Vince Gill, Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale and Kim Richey), Ducas has distilled his wide-ranging musical influences into a sound of his own. This one is good right out of the gate and promises to be one of the top releases of 1997.