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CARLTON FLETCHER: Country's Colt Ford says 'Thanks' with latest release

ALBUM REVIEW: Special edition of country star Colt Ford's album includes a superheroes comic

Georgia-born country singer Colt Ford’s new album, “Thanks for Listening,” will be released Tuesday on the Average Joes Entertainment label. (Special photo)

Georgia-born country singer Colt Ford’s new album, “Thanks for Listening,” will be released Tuesday on the Average Joes Entertainment label. (Special photo)

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A special edition of Colt Ford’s “Thanks for Listening” album will include a 64-page “The Average Joes” superhero comic book. That package will be sold only at Walmart. (Special illustration)

Call Colt Ford’s latest LP “a tale of two albums.”

The first half of Ford’s “Thanks for Listening,” which will be released Tuesday by Average Joe’s Entertainment, is the hick-hop verses and bro-country choruses that many Ford fans have come to know and love. But starting with the album’s sixth song, the excellent ballad “Sip It Slow,” which features rising star Lee Brice, Ford shows the versatility and inventiveness that have made him a favorite among more than just the mud-bogging, truck-lovin’, good ole boys of his base.

In fact, from the duet with Brice through the album-closing “Washed in the Mud,” a duet with star Randy Houser, “Thanks” surges from one high to the next. His break-beat-with-gypsy-fiddle on “Workin’ On” leads to maybe the most inventive country song ever recorded, the EDM-infused “Crank It Up,” which does just that.

From there, Ford does a 180 back to hard-core country with the Justin Moore duet “Farm Life,” throws a little auto tune into the disco-ish “Outshine Me” (which includes the great line “White liquor hit you quicker”), and closes with two fiddle-guitar rave-ups “Crickets,” which features Jerrod Niemann, and “Washed in the Mud.”

Talk with the Georgia-born Ford for any length of time, and you quickly realize he is not one of the spit-and-shined Nashville knock-offs that seem to dominate the country charts these days. His use of hip-hop verses is no gimmicky affectation (Hello, Florida Georgia Line, how’s Nelly these days?), and when he closes the album’s title track by noting “Fans make us who we are. Y’all are the music,” you have no doubt that it comes from the heart.

Ford also drops a clever shout-out to social media-savvy supporters in “Thanks for Listening,” which features Daniel Lee: “Facebook nation calling radio stations, tryin’ to get ole Colt a few spins.”

“She’s Like,” a duet with superstar Keith Urban, is likeable but not among the album’s best songs, as is the reggae-tinged “Dirty Side,” which features Walker Hayes. The album’s lone throwaway track is “Cut ‘Em All,” a duet with Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” that leaves listeners asking, Why?

But once Brice delivers the chorus of “Sip It Slow,” a father/son conversation that has Ford dispensing such wisdom as “Sometimes you turn the other cheek, Sometimes you gotta fight,” “Thanks for Listening” kicks into high gear. Ford goes just this side of Stevie Wonder funky on “Crank It Up,” which calls out Vegas posers with the wonderful chorus, “We showing Vegas how these country folks party, What happens in the backwoods stays in the backwoods.” And he plays on the Biblical “washed in the blood” imagery with the clever raver “Washed in the Mud.”

At one point in the closing cut, Ford affects the cadence of a fire-and-brimstone Southern Baptist pastor, noting, “Them ole trucks out there are like Jesus … good for the soul.”

“Thanks for Listening,” too, is good for the country soul. It features a Nashville outsider who has truly evolved as a songwriter and as an artist. Now if country radio would just listen to his 1.4 million Facebook friends and give ole Colt a few spins … the music world would be a better place.

(An exclusive version of “Thanks for Listening,” which will be sold only at Walmart, includes the premiere issue of “The Average Joes” superheroes comic book. The 64-page full-color comic features Ford and fellow “superheroes” (and Average Joes artists) Lenny Cooper and Clay Sharpe and Brian King of The Lacs as they save the world from various bad guys.)