It may seem a bit odd for some that the minister would blog a review for a CD. If this seems odd to you, that's a sure sign we have not yet had the pleasure of meeting. Stop by the church some Sunday and we'll remedy that. Until then... here's my first toe-dip into the icy pool of music reviews.
DEUCE - Billy Ray Hatley and the Showdogs
Sophomore effort? Hardly. The second CD by this seasoned foursome is more like a post-doc in Americana from lauded scholars of blues, rock, roots, and country. If you make it through the opening offerings of "Heroes" and "Mama's Cookin" without toe tapping, head bopping, or full out dancing - consult your neurologist post haste. And if you listen to all the lyrics without thinking at least one song could be about you, have a beer to jog your memory. You've lived it, and it's OK. Dr. Hatley is kind enough not to name names.
This collection offers tempo variety, clever lyrics and melody without pop over-simplification, solos many would give essential dental work to play, and smart arrangements. All the Showdogs and their guest players are top notch musicians who give this collection a polish rare in local recordings. Whatever Drew Perkins, Velpo Robertson, and Charles Arthur were paid for their guest efforts, if it was less than a house in Windsor Farms, the Showdogs should be spanked. (Considering Robertson's production work, throw in a "rivah" cottage for him.)
And then there's the lead guitarist. Call it experience, blessings, mojo, or kharma. Whatever it is, Jim Wark and his trademark pink paisley Fender have more than their share of it. Deftly alternating between the rockin' of "Who's Gonna' Love Me", the down home twangin' of "Voice of Reason", and the psychedelic wah wahin' of "Colors", Wark has a distinctive sound that asserts itself without undermining the gifts of his collaborators.
"Lessons", which is hiding down in the number eleven spot on the playlist showcases the best of what this band has to offer: addictive rhythm work of Rico Antonelli and Mike Moore, the haunting stringed sub-plots of Wark and Perkins, and Hatley's voice at its deep drawling lamenting sexiest. While the lyrics are compelling, it is the interweaving siren "voices" of strings, rhythm, and Hatley's vocals that call our ships to join them in the crags of love lost. This is music for people who've chipped a few teeth sucking the marrow out of life and love, and I can't help but offer a prayer of thanks for the vixens and cads who broke our hearts. The chorus claims, "I got lessons I ain't learned, it's true." Perhaps this is true in love, but when it comes to music, these gentlemen are the professors.
Fans of the live show will be disappointed by the absence of crowd pleasers "Why's Everybody Always Calling Me Jesus" and "Hoot Owl". Two very good reasons for the professors to take us back to school on another CD. For now, there is plenty to study on Deuce.