Apr 29, 2009 at 12:00 am

"What would life be without music?" asks Robin Horlock on the opening title song to his new record. "Fairly dull" is the obvious answer. After all, without the notes and chords, Justin Timberlake would be tirelessly gyrating to nothing but his own ego. Leonard Cohen would be grumbling to himself in the corner of a dive bar. Tommy Lee would be downing kegs of beer as part of a bet like the frat boy that he still believes himself to be. And Detroit … well Detroit would be just a wasteland. What have we had to celebrate in recent years other than our continuously thriving music scene, the Red Wings and the Pistons? Without music, there'd be a hell of a lot more pressure on local sports teams.

Horlock's an English transplant to the Motor City. Arriving 18 years ago with his parents, due to his dad's work (ah, those were the days!), Horlock fell in love with the city and, in time, carved himself a musical niche as a British /Michiganian hybrid singer-song writer. The crest he's dreamed up for the CD sleeve here says it all — the British and American flags flown together under a royal crown.

Horlock will mostly appeal to those who like their music saccharine-sweet. There's little Detroit grit here, although he's certainly influenced by Motown. Fans of English acoustic popsters such as James Blunt will adore this album because it almost works as background music. Horlock's voice is nice enough and his guitar playing is proficient if rarely challenging. The songwriting doesn't always hit the mark ("Sink" just, ahem, washes away almost unnoticed), but there are highlights to be found (including the aforementioned title track and the melodic "Skeleton Key").

Music is a record that may be a little too "nice" for some, especially those whose definition of that title may be a little rawer-edged. But Horlock has produced an album that has wide appeal and radio-playability, nevertheless. And that, it would seem, is certainly enough for him.

Robin Horlock will appear as part of "Shiprocked!" — a moonlight rock 'n' roll cruise on the Detroit Princess on Saturday, May 16; $15 advance, $20 at the dock; boards 10 p.m., docks 1:30 a.m.; departs from Bates and Atwater streets, on the shore of the Detroit River, Detroit. For boat info, call 1-877-DET-BOAT.

Brett Callwood writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].