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Just To Be

Goddamn! Every once in awhile an album comes long that makes me want to get out of my chair and do a little jig and this week (month... year...) it is Toni Vere's Just To Be, a country roots phantasmagoria for everything that roots can be and seldom is. The Alternate Root Magazine pointed the way, stating something to the effect that... just what the hell did they say? I can't remember because when I followed the link and clicked, the music coming out of the speakers did a mindsweep. At first I thought I shouldn't be liking it but like a guy with a finger in a light socket, I couldn't pull away. I still can't.

It isn't all country, though the part that grabs me certainly is. From the beginning of Pushing My Luck, a feeling washed over me of jukeboxes past?- the ones I would hear walking past open tavern doors on the way home from school in fifties and sixties logging town Oregon. Ditto, My Backyard, a song framed in classic country style, and Hundred Miles From You, with its country boogie and Johnny Cash shuffle, and G-String, a tongue-in-cheek talking country double-entendre classic with a very slight (and unintentional, I am sure) nod toward the theme from The Patty Duke Show.

I would have included Grandma's Old Guitar, which is double-dipped in country, but some songs rise above genre. Smooth and downright beautiful, it is a picture in song of an old guitar hung on a wall and the lady who once played it. It is a connection to the past through an appreciation of music, shared. It is who she was (Grandma) and who she is (Vere) and a realization of who they are. It's a monster.

Vere is a little bit country and a little bit rock and a little bit folk and she handles it all like she is born to it. Her songwriting is understated and more effective for it, her voice one with each song and her attitude obvious. She loves what she does here. So do I.

Just To Be is impressive enough to make me take the time to pass around the credit (Vere does a good job herself in the liner notes, but unless you have already purchased this, which I recommend you do, you don't have the liner notes handy, do you?). Jeff Muller does an outstanding job of working with Vere and the musicians, capturing just that right amount if oomph here and aaahh there, and lays down some very impressive backing tracks of his own. Carla Rawlyck's guitar knocks me out and makes me wonder where she's been hiding (I'll be watching you, Carla) and Hashmagandy (comprised of Vere, Rawlyck, bassist Kelly Timleck and drummer Lauren Buckell) serve up harmonies as sweet as Grandm,a's homemade pie. When you put it all together, you have a total winner. Makes me wonder why Nashville isn't calling. Huh. I guess they suck.

And with that, I have to say that one reason Nashville sucks is because real country/roots artists like have no place there. She is all about the music and, well, Nashville really isn't anymore. Fine by me. If it comes down to it and I really need a fix, I'm slapping on the fur-lined cap and the old Muk-Luks and heading for Calgary. Hashmagandy On the Tundra. Sounds like a festival to me. And a damn good one.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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