Bear & the Essentials

Record review

Texas Platters

Bear & the Essentials

Two Time Fool

Anyone who reads liner notes and production credits knows instantaneously what a Billy Horton-produced album will sound like. Horton, and the acts he works with, re-create a musical palette that goes back a half-century to Sun Studios and those who followed in Sam Phillips' footprints. Whether that sound slicks back your hair or not is up to the talents of the artist; Horton just provides the groundwork. The Austin bassist worked with Bear & the Essentials on their local debut, Two Time Fool, and it's as simple as can be. With just Bear on acoustic rhythm guitar and vocals, Ethan Shaw (Chili Cold Blood, the Derailers) on doghouse bass, and Doug Strahan providing the twangy electric guitar, B&E lay down some fancy hillbilly grooves blending originals with tunes from Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, and Hank Snow. Unfortunately, Bear's vocals aren't distinctive or strong enough to seduce the listener through the whole album, and midway through, Two Time Fool bogs down in a monotonous sameness. In the past few years, local country veterans like Roger Wallace and James Hand have made discs with a similar approach. Young Bear might take a cue from them on how to adapt his voice and show a variety of emotions.

**

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