May 17, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Well, not this easy, please: Nichols gets so laid-back, his music occasionally tips into easy listening. His voice a narcotic buzz, Nichols knows how to lay down a roots-rock groove and then stay within its confines. The result can be soothingly pretty (”Better Than Beautiful”) or pretty draggy (”Heaven Help Me,” whose line ”Life don’t seem to move when you’re alone” stands as an apt metaphor for the mood of Nichols’ music).

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