Rig Rock Deluxe: a Musical Salute to the American Truck Driver

(Diesel Only/Upstart)

I've always strongly suspected Jeremy Tepper was a mad genius; now, I have firm proof. Tepper, leader of the World Famous Blue Jays, keeps spitting out these wonderful alt-country compilations on his Diesel Only label that are chock full of meaty chunks of inspired country music, usually with a lean toward trucker culture. This is the crown jewel of his vision, with a roster that borders on mind-boggling, including a coup of getting Buck Owens, Del Reeves, and Red Simpson. Listing highlights is pointless -- the whole album is a highlight. Simpson and Reeves, two of the towering pillars of the truck-driver country genre, team up with Junior Brown and Jim Lauderdale, respectively, for rollicking good tracks. Brown affirms that, had his heyday been 1966 instead of 1996, he'd be their peer rather than just an admirer, and in consideration for the Country Music Hall of Fame. Other Austinites (and semi-Austinites) register a strong presence throughout the album, with Don Walser's solid opener, "Truck Driving Man," followed by tracks from Kelly Willis (accompanied by Son Volt, who also have their own cut), Shaver, and a makeshift confederation called Rig Rock Deluxe that includes Dale Watson, Rosie Flores, Wayne Hancock, Toni Price, Caspar Rawls, and Gurf Morlix. Steve Earle covers "White Freight Liner" with all the respect you'd expect of a man who considers Townes Van Zandt to be God on earth; Cheri Knight (formerly of the Blood Oranges) and the Bottle Rockets show why they're the darlings of alt-country deejays nationwide; and Marty Stuart and BR5-49 provide two rare reasons for not launching B-52 raids on Nashville. Weak points are few and minor, and surprisingly, one of them comes from Buck Owens, as he obviously hasn't fully recovered from his throat ailments. If you've been trying to decide whether to pay the rent or buy an album, go for this disc -- you can crash at a friend's house, and he'll probably be glad to let you play this constantly on his stereo.
(4.5 stars) -- Lee Nichols

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