Bobby Earl Smith
Rearview Mirror (Muleshoe)
Reviewed by Jerry Renshaw, Fri., Feb. 16, 2001
Bobby Earl Smith
Rear View Mirror (Muleshoe)
In the early/mid Seventies, Freda & the Firedogs' brand of local country-rock attracted the attention of über-producer Jerry Wexler, who came to Austin to sign the band, but wound up signing Willie Nelson and producing the watershed twofer of Shotgun Willie and Phases and Stages instead. Freda & the Firedogs, whose Wexler-produced debut remains unreleased, introduced Marcia Ball and John X. Reed to the Austin scene, but Bobby Earl Smith stayed back in the shadows. Now, 25 years later, Rear View Mirror serves as a reminder that such an Austin doesn't exist anymore. With ringers like Caspar Rawls, Floyd Domino, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Johnny Gimble, Kimmie Rhodes, and Marcia Ball, Rear View Mirror is about as country as a chicken coop and about as Lone Star State as a sun-dried armadillo on the roadside. Things kick off with a version of the old chestnut "Walkin' the Dog," then settle into an easy-chair groove for the rest of the disc. Songs like "Muleshoe" and "Yellow Flowers" hearken back to the Gram Parsons/cosmic cowboy days without ever sounding stuck in the early Seventies. Flaco Jimenez supplies accordion on "Donde Esta la Cerveza?" (a sentiment everyone can agree with), and Jimmie Dale sits in for "Cold Wind"; actually, Bobby Earl's voice can sound more than a bit like Gilmore's from time to time. The most compelling thing about this disc, though, is its intimacy -- it sounds like it was made by old friends who know each other's idiosyncrasies and who missed each other after all this time. It may have taken the better part of three decades for him to put out an album, but it was worth the wait. Wonderful stuff, this.