The Austin Chronicle

Boy Action

By Margaret Moser, December 14, 2007, 12:38pm, Earache!

Hopefully I won’t be digging out CDs in February 2008 and cringing because I missed writing about them in 2007. Here are a few notables releases that shouldn’t be left behind.

The Last Country Album
You can’t call Heybale! underrated; their stellar lineup, including Redd Volkaert and Earl Poole Ball, precludes that. What comes bubbling out of The Last Country Album is a gorgeous ode to unfettered dancehall country, far from the maddening crowds of arenas. “House of Secrets,” “Livin’ in a Cheap Motel,” “Heybalin’” – these songs are crystalline country, pure and sweet. This might not really be the last country album but it’s a keeper. *** 1/2

Chris Mulkey
Ride This One Out
Chris Mulkey’s face is more familiar as a character actor (he’s currently the coach on Friday Night Lights) but he spends enough time around Austin to qualify as a part-time resident. Certainly his all-original blues are up to snuff, as Ride This One Out brims with smoky tunes like “BBQ Jump” and “Peep Show Romeo.” Mulkey’s rootsy vocals and fine songwriting go together like chicken fried steak and cream gravy. ** 1/2

Bob Spalding
The 5th Venture
When the Ventures were announced as inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, no one around here seemed to realize we have a Venture in our midst. Texas son Bob Spalding joined the famous quartet in 1981, after their Sixties heyday with “Walk Don’t Run,” and has been Venture #5 since. Spalding’s stylish guitar tackles that chestnut plus others and paints his originals like “Blue Dawn” and “Premonition” with fire and ice. The unexpected treasure comes in “When You Wish Upon a Star.” This is the good stuff no one knows about. ***

Patterson Barrett
I Must Be Dreaming
This little gem from veteran player and multi-instrumentalist Patterson Barrett doesn’t sound anything like a debut solo album, not with the likes of Buddy and Julie Miller helping out. Barrett’s strength isn’t in his vocals but, like many songwriters, his voice suits the laid-back sentiment of “Back in My Heart” and “Somewhere Far Away.” What really sets the all-original Dreaming apart is its tender ability to tap into the vagaries of midlife without sounding like overgrown teen angst. ** 1/2

Mike Rosenthal
If Mike Rosenthal’s music gives off a hint of literary introspection, it comes naturally: 10 years ago he ditched his reporter’s job for that of a struggling musician. Home follows 2002’s Movin’ In by stepping over the threshold from pure pop to a comfortable seat at the singer-songwriter table. It’s clear Rosenthal is still experimenting with genres but the lo-fi charm of songs like “Cry” and “Funny” are undeniable. ** 1/2

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