For the last decade, this plaintive, M.O.R. college-country act bypassed loud, national exposure in favor of relentlessly touring of small towns and college circuits, pushing their own releases and winning over regional radio stations, eventually finding itself with a major label deal and a notoriously dedicated fan base in spite of its relative anonymity in the world of big country. By taking this more personal, road-tripping route of bringing big music to small crowds, the Eli Young Band, fronted by long-time collaborators Mike Eli and James Young, come around often and return to ever-growing crowds.
The sound, however? It's about what you'd expect: an inoffensive, beige mash of everything in the middle of the dial, all seemingly drawn from an old Parade Magazine's weekly Columbia House CD Club insert. New country, '90s rock, classic adult-contemporary — it's all there in some safe, shapeless blah. But it's a potent blah that consistently fills up theaters and clubs with excited fans who sing along to every word sung by the "Eagles by way of Blake Shelton" easy-goers. Recently, the band's expanding popularity has earned it airtime on country music stations, opening spots for the big-timers like the Dave Matthews Band, Alan Jackson and Gary Allan and the record for the longest running single on Billboard's country charts with "When It Rains," a twangy, earnest piece of musical loneliness made for gray mornings. Expect this to bring out legions of devotees.