The Freelance Mentalists.
Sunday, March 14, 2004
*Even More Guest Mentalism From Don Allred*

Because It's Never Too Late For A 2003 C&W Roundup

All of my favorite Country performers are quite capable of locking themselves in one room all night, but I don't have to share their particular fixations of the moment; each can project through walls real well. Lucinda's WORLD WITHOUT TEARS is a world of hurt and candles, art and medicine, surrogate soldiers and juicy tunes, which of course just make it all too concise and too clear, that you ain't here. Yeah, YOU. (Not me, I'm here, but she don't think of me that way.) Sure as a shotglass, and a calendar. Yet there's always a sense of something in reserve, no matter how much I actually hear: something more, and that's the way the world (oh yeah, and home) should be, or at least seem. In that home across the road, the old guys make a virtue of necessity, and so experience and self-awareness come close enough to wisdom, for a few mercifully brief (though still expensive) pre-and-post-CD-bloat minutes (as itunes and the like usher us toward the end of the Album Age altogether). Cash (in digitized immortality/present tense) knows he can't hold notes any more, if he ever could, so finds some sounds that don't need to be held, in fact sound better the more they decay. The Apocalypse and the "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and that consarned "Sam Hill" 's soapbox/scaffold are just three more stops, and no places to loiter now, if they ever were. But each is just as real, just as expensive, yet just as safe from/in erosion, in the view he affords us, which is all he and we (or I, caffeinated geezer-cadet) can afford. Und zo: did he learn "We'll Meet Again" from Vera Lynn's inspirational WWII version, or from DR.STRANGELOVE? Zoundz like he dug both. Merle's"That's The News" is a sure shot, like "Philadelphia Lawyer," but I love how we go from getting the news I already knew but still feel the need to hear (and don't take the ability to do so for granted, not any more), to "Stick out yo' can, here comes the garbage man."(and "Yellow Ribbons" is one trippy little march, on down the same road apiece). When the Chicks go from Bruce Robison's "Travelin' Soldier" to Maria McKee's "Am I the Only One Who's Ever Felt This Way," busting out of the little room o'memory into the bigger one of RAT NOW, ready to head on down the highway right between those walls, it's a paycheck Jack. Cracker's David Lowery face froze that way like his Mamma warned, so his voice can't help but keep his distance, which makes his extremely belated and delighted discovery of Outlaw chestnuts on COUNTRYSIDES (Cooking Vinyl) a hoot, mostly. (As if the Kinks had made a covers-savvy cross between MUSWELL HILLBILLIES and EVERYBODY'S IN SHOWBIZ.) (Not that Lowery's originals are all that much better than Davies' downhill highpoints, but the blend works). A distance close enough to wisdom on their version of Springsteen's "Sinaloa Cowboys," which any sense of "closure," much less justice, or whatchacallit compassion, dares not understand too soon.Other notes: David Allen Coe: LIVE AT BILLY BOB'S TEXAS (Smith Music Group): not as good as LIVE: IF THAT AIN'T COUNTRY Doesn't give his band as much room here. Oh well. Warren Haynes and Johnny Neel are long gone,anyway, but (70s-boogie-ing or banjo-and-mandolin picking in a good, trashily-electrified, expertly-rationed way), these current guys are high generic, as is Coe, the original John the Baptist (or John the Confederate Mormon Polygamist, he'd correct me)/ poet laureate of the longhaired daddies (and mamas) of today's Montgomery Gentrified, Buffed-Hat mainstream. (A letter from a forsaken, guilt-tripping daddy [the more nuanced re audible aging of Coe, and young-sounding lungs of his fairly well-behaved, sometimes-sing-along attendees] is slipped in under the smoke, as moody and deft as anything I've heard him do.) Some nods in the direction of recognition, but he still feels residual pain of neglect and other "old scars under new tattoos" (as he tells us, around the campfire, a few too many times, but even the boring parts keep me alert, ready for the good times to come again). The songs co-written with Kid Richie fit well, not many mere rehashes of hits (not many hits to be rehashed, but still) (and "You Never Even Called Me By My Name" gets a surprise guest-shot of "The Real Slim Shady"). When he finally resumes the group vocals (which made for a strong start), we get a lilting, expressive "Free My Mind," (like a lawnneck Cooke/Marley-smoker) and certainly a better "Follow Me" than Uncle Kracker's watery Steve Millerism.(Later:also sonically sound is Gary Stewart's own LIVE AT BB'S T. [If you check my review at, be sure to put his name in quotes, or you'll get search-spam.] Pat Green and Asleep At The Wheel have their T-sets too, unheard by me, so far, and Willie Nelson's got an upcoming one ---h'mmmmm) Nancy McCallion & The Mollys: TROUBLE (APN): the party's over (on this record, anyway). Now Nancy's hung her name overhead, but isn't (always) quite the right lone frontperson her pungent barstool ballads deserve (really it still takes two-so where are you tonight, Catherine Zavala?). But somewhere in the winter West, keyed-up, mixed-buttoned Accordion-Americans still prowl a mining town, ghost town, college town (all the same, if you stay long enough). Seven years after I started listening to these erotic pilgrims, notes begin to multiply again, like (a new generation or ten of) jackrabbits with every spin, so better hit PAUSE and send over my own round of label-peelings (TROUBLE songs' last lines): "I've paid off all the interest with my tears. Put the baby in the shopping cart and run. It's all spanking new like a white dress and vow, and you're a stranger now. If you don't stop to tell me that you want me backagain, I won't stop to tell you it's too late. First class patrons be spilling their wine, never make the station on time. You will have him or you won't. This is my round put it here. It has done it before it will do it again. They wish us well and what the hell, tonight is all our own." Just don't let me get to first lines. "Jolene" 's beauty hits Mindy Smith so hard, and keeps coming on, as if tears could burn like they could dazzle. (Later: Warning! Mindy's own alb mostly drizzle. Makes me appreciate Lucinda even more, re how to make depression enjoyable, at least for listener.) I get just a glimpse of how a woman might see things, and JUST BECAUSE I'M A WOMAN:THE SONGS OF DOLLY PARTON is effectively Mindy's (debut) album, as much as it is Shelby's, Me'Shell's, Emmylou's, and Dolly's latest *still*-fresh kill (didn't quite make my Top Ten because comps can get a bit diffuse with the roomful of voices, and still and yet Dolly-as-writer doesn't show quite as much range as she does performing, in her own studio, or, Lord knows, on her OWN stage [any one she's on she owns]). Wouldn't have hurt for Terri Clark to be on JUST BECAUSE. Her own PAIN TO KILL just missed my Top Ten on account of its top half being a mite flattened by"guest" production, but her old ally Keith Stegall almost saves the day in the homestretch, and the words are often her own, and always delivered by the clearcut, cleancut voice of experience. Like the lady deputy always sez on "Reno 911," "Ah believe everyone should do what they want, long as they take a shower."

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