Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., Nov. 1, 2002
Gravy BoatBars and Stars
This second album by the standard-bearers of South by-Gawd Austin will be greeted like a long-lost relative by anyone who procures their liquid refreshment in multiples of six. Gravy Boat (starring Chronicle contributor Jerry Renshaw) are far from a one-trick pony, however; they're more like a multicolored palomino with its head lowered into the trough. (That moonshine jug on the cover is there for a reason.) While not quite a concept album -- practically the only album that isn't these days -- Bars and Stars still feels like an evening at a (fictional) corner tavern at Oltorf and South First, spent in the company of the sleep-deprived truck-driver ("Rubber Hits the Road"), the mandolin-picking newlywed ("Used to Think"), and the one-eyed tattooed fellow who just got out of the joint (the bravura "12x6"). Once in a while, someone punches up a classic on the jukebox, like the devil-blaming cautionary tale "Black Rose" or Charlie Rich's "Lonely Weekend." Sometimes country as red-eye gravy, sometimes lurching into guitar-bending Molly Hatchet territory, only on the Rev. Horton Heat-reject "Beer" is Bars and Stars a letdown. Closer "Nothing Ever Happens," with all the frustration of vintage Replacements but none of the vitriol, considers the consequences of drowning a life 12 ounces at a time, but by then it's too late and all you can do is order another round. Set 'em up, bartender.