Johnny Bush Lost Highway Saloon (Lone Star)Johnny BushJohnny Bush Sings Bob Wills (Lone Star)

Lost Highway Saloon, and Johnny Bush Sings Bob Wills (Lone Star)

Record Reviews

Johnny Bush

Lost Highway Saloon (Lone Star)

Johnny Bush

Johnny Bush Sings Bob Wills (Lone Star)

Longtime San Antonian Johnny Bush shines on Lost Highway Saloon, one of two new simultaneously released albums on Lone Star, his voice and choice of material bearing more than a hint of Ray Price. The production is smooth without ever sounding too slick, with impeccable sidemen like Buddy Emmons on steel and Floyd Domino on piano. Bush teams up with Leona Williams on "The Wall," an aching love song penned by New Braunfels' Clay Blaker. The title track, meanwhile, is a honky-tonk fantasy about meeting the long-gone old-timers, à la "Hillbilly Heaven," the power of Bush's voice bringing it on home. Forty years after he got his start, Johnny Bush still has what it takes to put good songs together and pull 'em off effortlessly. Johnny Bush Sings Bob Wills, on the other hand, is a somewhat different matter. Recorded at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studios, the masters for this release were glommed by the IRS during Nelson's unfortunate tax problems a few years back, and only recovered after much legal wrangling (Willie sings on one track, Hank Thompson on another). Bush's affinity for the music comes through on every song, picking out Wills standards like "Time Changes Everything" and "Warm Red Wine," and if anything, Bush has a better voice than Leon Rausch or Tommy Duncan did with the original lineup. Unfortunately, the production leaves something to be desired, as a hired-gun horn section clashes with the Bandoleros, and the overall effect is more Stan Kenton than Bob Wills. Despite a problematic mix, it's still a worthy tribute to Wills' brand of Western swing, and Bush carries it off handily, though you'd never mistake it for the original.

(Lost Highway Saloon) ***

(Sings Bob Wills) **.5

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