Reviewed by Darcie Stevens, Fri., Oct. 8, 2004
Redd VolkaertFor the Ladies (HighTone) Sometime after Bob Wills and Hank Williams taught the world to swing, things went to hell. The Toby Keiths and Kenny Chesneys of Hot 100 country ran that classic guitar sound through Disney's ad agency, and the diamonds turned to coal. Fortunately for Austinites, Redd Volkaert never subscribed to that commercialism. The master of the Telecaster across all genres, Volkaert strums honky-tonk to blues over old-school Western swing beats. For the Ladies, a compilation of Volkaert's two solo LPs and too few live tracks, amplifies the big man's talent while also proving how sterile studio country recording can be. Live TwangBangers cuts "She Loves Anything That Swings," "Truck Drivin' Man," and closer "Telewacker" force even the staunchest punk rocker to slap his knees in rush-hour traffic with Bill Kirchen's buddy axework spotlighting Volkaert's trademark sound. While studio tracks like opener "No Stranger to a Tele" and "T'wango" impress with Volkaert's nimble picking, there's just no life to the recordings. The live instrumentals far exceed those forced vocal tracks. How does one put this man's immense talent (and digits) on tape without sacrificing detail? Bakersfield songs like "You're Still on My Mind" and "Back to Back" stick like Velcro and still manage wankless guitar above Billy Dee's perfect bass, though again, their studio clarity mars the results. Make no mistake: No matter how many close-mic'd amps line the studio walls, Volkaert shreds. Buck Owens would be proud.