Leann Rimes, Brent Allen, Tommy Alverson, Darryl Lee Rush, and the Joel Hofmann Band
From the liner notes, it's difficult to judge if Garland, Texas, superstar LeAnn Rimes' Family (Curb) is more fashion shoot or album. She's capable of carrying both equally well, though the glamour shots don't really reckon with the everyday-woman country-pop Rimes is dishing. Her vocals are polished and suave, like a more powerful, smoother Lee Ann Womack, and the opening title track and "Upper Hand" are defiant and Reba-smoked, McEntire herself duetting on conversational closer "When You Love Someone Like That." Brent Allen's sophomore album, There's a Lot of Folks Like Me, is more convincing in its country populism, especially as most folks would sing about as flat. Allen's at his best, though, working laid-back, down-low Texas honky-tonk numbers like "Day Job" and Dale Watson-backed "Hair of the Dog." Country to the Bone (Palo Duro) fits Tommy Alverson equally well, Roy Robinson's title track serving as a call-out of contemporary country's dubiously reputed roots. Bar growler "This Buzz Is for You" playfully shuffles, and "Got Here as Fast as I Could" kicks with a Texas-fried Hank Jr. country rock, though Jim Lauderdale's "I'll Still Be Around" and Doug Sahm's "Be Real" grapple beyond their means. Dallas' Darryl Lee Rush follows up 2005's debut, Llano Avenue, with Live From the River Road Icehouse (Shiner), talkin' up "Town Too Tough to Die" like Robert Earl Keen and serenading with the hilariously pining sincerity of "White Trash Paradise." Behind the distinct if not entirely versatile baritone of its leader, the Joel Hofmann Band's debut, One More Day (Genuine Cowhide), benefits from the backing of session stalwarts Redd Volkaert, Earl Poole Ball, and James Shelton, but only "Sad Little Girl" stands out among the rockabilly and honky-tonk set.
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