The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash

Acts Playing South by Southwest

SXSW Records

The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash

(Ultimatum)

How to put together an alt.country record: 1) Get a hot guitar player, which San Diego's Bastards have in nimble Tele-man Alex Watts; 2) Have a soulful singer up front, here Mark Stuart; 3) Do a couple of well-chosen covers, in this case Merle Haggard's "Silver Wings" and Dale Watson's "Truck Stop In La Grange"; 4) Nail down a good, unobtrusive production sound. Since all the elements are in place, why doesn't this disc catch fire all the way? The songwriting. Requisite trucking song "440 Horses" has none of the barreling bluster of trucker anthems from yesteryear, and the same goes for "Interstate Cannonball." In both cases, the lyrics point toward a balls-out honky-tonk raunch & roller, but musically, the final product is a bit insipid. There are bright spots, like the breezy swing of "Crying Over You" and the somber "Walk Alone," but this stuff could be a lot more compelling. It's tight as a mousetrap, Watts' guitar is all over the songs like a cheap suit, and Stuart's voice has a smoky charm, but the hooks just aren't there. The potential is, though. (Saturday, March 17, Waterloo Brewing Upstairs., 1am)

**.5

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