Slaid Cleaves Wishbones (Philo/Rounder)
Singer-songwriter Slaid Cleaves third record proves once and for all that you don't have to be Texas-born to make pure Texas music. The Maine native's last record, 2000's Broke Down, was hailed by the Austin Chronicle as "the first great Texas album of the 21st century." Difficult as that particular accolade might be to eclipse, Cleaves has done it with Wishbones. Lyrically striking and a writer of visceral, ironic melodies, Cleaves is a near-perfect combination of Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett. Four years between albums allowed Cleaves to go from critics' darling to trustworthy songwriter, and the result rages.
The Todd Tijerina Band Welcome Home (self-released)
A fine guitarist, Tijerina makes the mistake of putting the lyrics first on his band's latest release, Welcome Home. It's sweet that he's written a song about his son, but that ode and the rest of the lyrical content distracts from the killer guitar playing on the record. The performances are solid here, but the lyrics and melodies are sadly second-rate. Tijerina has the chops necessary to become a great blues guitarist, but the buck stops there. Neither exceptional vocalist nor lyricist, Tijerina would do well to hook up with one or the other and concentrate on guitar heroics.
The Darlington Horns Exile on High Street (self-released)
Something about this collection of songs is charming. Is it that they're sloppy and haphazard, or is it that they're sincere and full of honest mistakes? What's the difference?—the hate mail I get will all be the same. I love this band, I love their songs, but I hate the "we recorded this in Slim's living room" slop. The voices are fantastic, the performances bristle with electricity and I wish the Darlington Horns had enough pride in themselves and their music to save up enough money and spend the time to make a real record.
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