CD reviews: Straight out of Texas | AspenTimes.com
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CD reviews: Straight out of Texas

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Lynn Goldsmith/Special to The Aspen TimesLyle Lovett offered up the album "Natural Forces" in 2009.
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On “Natural Forces,” Lovett includes two takes of “Pantry,” a swinging version, and a bluegrassy acoustic take. It makes sense. The song demonstrates many of Lovett’s strengths – wry humor, clever wordplay, a splash of Texas culture, and the mixing of two favorite subjects, food and romance.Lovett takes a big step outside his usual bounds on “It’s Rock And Roll.” Co-written with Robert Earl Keen, it’s a look at the shallowness and self-delusion undergirding the rock-star dream – but also the rock-bottom fact that people will keep grasping for that dream. The song is soaked in edgier electric guitar than Lovett has ever employed.Elsewhere it’s Lyle being Lyle (though he borrows more material from other writers than usual): a cover of “Loretta,” by the late god of Texas songwriters, Townes Van Zandt; a mix of the somber and thoughtful (“Empty Blue Shoes”) and the rollicking and oddball (“Farmer Brown”). All of it exquisitely executed.

It’s hard to imagine a voice and words matching any better than they do on “Somedays the Song Writes You.” Guy Clark’s (born in Monahans) sound and songs get so deep into the heart of things with no fuss, no pretense, no fighting. The title song is the ultimate expression of an artist’s acceptance of things – “You can curse you can pray/ But the words have a way of their own” – and Clark’s dusty, unforced voice comes to peace with fate, Hollywood, romance and his legacy through this magnificent album.

Unlike Clark, Hubbard (raised in Oak Cliff) hasn’t gotten to acceptance yet. He’s still going through the storm. Check out these song titles: “Wasp’s Nest,” “Tornado Ripe,” “Black Wings,” “Opium.” And my favorite: “Every Day Is the Day of the Dead.” And speaking of titles, the album could walk away with the award for album title of the decade. Hubbard seems to have chosen endarkenment for the moment, but his walk on the dark side is delivered in a potent package of bluesy guitars, crashing cymbals and, adding an ominous tone of how serious this all is, some church choir vocals and hand claps.

The 28-year-old Kweller (born in Greenville), always fairly rootsy in his pop-rock, exposes his country-ish side in this low-key but affecting album. With plenty of steel guitar, there are hints of Neil Young’s “Harvest”; the overall effect is akin to the “Mermaid Avenue” albums, Billy Bragg and Jeff Tweedy’s settings of Woody Guthrie lyrics.

Rev. Horton Heat expands his modern take on rockabilly in two songs about the Lone Star state. “Ain’t No Saguaro in Texas” adds South of the Border accordion to the group’s humor; a cover of Ernest Tubb’s “There’s a Little Bit of Everything in Texas” is two-step country. For those who like the Rev’s usual speed, try the speedy “Death Metal Guys,” an ode to a certain type of bad-ass.

Acquired taste? Hardly. McClinton (born in Lubbock) is an immensely appealing figure, and this album reaches out to all tastes. The album opens with the kicking “Mama’s Little Baby,” a spin on the traditional rhythm, but in which “Mama’s Little Baby” is “all grown up.” No mention of shortenin’ bread. McClinton touches lots of bases – piano ballads, smoky blues, rockers. On “I Need to Know,” an old-style Delta blues, McClinton’s voice gets creaky in a wonderful way.stewart@aspentimes.com


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