Music: G'bye, Garth

He says this album is his last. Is it a fitting epitaph?

Garth Brooks has a fine voice, though it's a shade too polished to be called distinctively great. His songbook is thick with quality ballads and rockers. But other than Friends in Low Places, a 1990 song that brilliantly melded the mischief of country with the simplicity of pop, Brooks has never produced a track with crossover appeal. What he has done, quite purposefully, is sell an astonishing 101 million records--and sales figures, more than anything, are how he has come to be defined. To the guardians of traditional country, the figures are license to write off Brooks as a popular errata....

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