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Album Review

MICHAEL &
THE LONESOME PLAYBOYS
Bottle Cap Sky

If you've ever wondered what Ferlin Husky and Faron Young might be playing had they been born of this generation, this is it. I remember when both of those country boys hit the charts and they were two of the coolest--- always dressed to the max with a couple of the best bands to hit the TV screen. More than that, they bridged everything a kid who grew up on Country & Western needed--- a rock 'n' roll attitude with country roots. Truth be told, there were few of us teens back in those days who separated the two genres. A hit was a hit and in Oregon in the late fifties and early sixties, Ferlin and Faron had their share, and more than Hello Walls (Young) and Gone and Wings of a Dove (Husky). They ripped it up before they hit it big and they country'd it up after and while they moved up and down the charts, they remained generational favorites until radio got tipped on its ear in the seventies. At that time, Country & Western pretty much became Country and rock was stealing its thunder, bands like The Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco and Pure Prairie League taking a number of young Country fans on a country rock ride.

So isn't it fair that Country gets its revenge? The eighties saw Country cracking the charts on all levels and it continues through to today, though genre seems to mean a lot less than it did back then, most of today's musicians following the music wherever it takes them. I mean, when you can outcrank rockers wearing dusters and cowboy hats, that says something, not that I understand it. Then again, in this Modern Country world, maybe fashion out-trumps music.

I still love Country but not the stuff being mass-produced by Nashville. I love the Country being produced by the indies. Zoe Muth & The High Rollers impresses the hell out of me as does Dave Gleason (one of the few country boys with left coast twang), The Honeycutters (out of Asheville, North Carolina), and Copper & Glass (though they have had a personnel change since their excellent self-titled album which could find them steering away from Country--- you never know), among others. There is something about that indie way of looking at music, I guess.

Michael Ubaldini comes at it from a refreshing angle. His songs lean toward the past--- towards the days of Husky and Young, as I stated before, but also toward later Country--- the Charlie Pride and the Ed Bruce years and even those of Bob McDill and Tom T. Hall. You can hear it in his lyrics and choice of subject matter of songs like Lonesome When You're Gone and The Outlaw Kind and Three Cheers For Heartache. You want Hall or McDill, check out J.W. Price The Texas Oil Man.

If one wants to be picky, I suppose you could say that Ubaldini's voice isn't quite as strong as Husky's or Young's, but that would be digging deep. Those are two unique and powerful voices and while Ubaldini's doesn't quite reach the heights, it does the job nicely. The thing is, his songwriting and the band more than make up for strength of pipes and, in the end, that is enough. More than enough, considering that he hands us fifteen songs. Considering the strength of those songs, I would call that downright generous.

No, I don't listen to people when they talk about Nashville these days--- not the Modern Country Nashville. Formula's the game there. Give them fashion and formula and they're happy. Of course, if they really wanted people like myself to pay attention, they would let the artists do what they do best. What Michael & The Lonesome Playboys do best is music. Michael doesn't wear that cowboy hat for show. He just likes it.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.


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