CD Review for 11/06/08 – Catching up with some Honky Tonk!

Compact Capsules – Clearing the Desk

by Dan Ferguson


In attempts to catch up on all that come in the last bunch of months ( and almost all of which you’ve likely heard on the Boudin Barndance), the installment of Compact Capsules offers a whole bunch of quickies. Let’s get to it.

Along with his band The Pickups, Roy Heinrich has been playng honky tonk music in Austin, Texas for since the mid 1990s. All Night All Day (3H Records) is his fourth longplayer and features 13 cuts that finds the Heinrich heart firmly placed on sleeve, with the occasional honky tonk wink and smile. Heinrichs’s barroom laments have always been rooted in the pathos of traditional C&W – booze, lost love, hard luck. On All Night All Day, he serves up some winners with “Too Much Whiskey”, “Give Me a Kiss” with its catchy country rumba beat, “Sad Songs On the Jukebox”, and “Six Feet Under” the favorites of these ears. Never in possession of the perfect voice, Heinrich’s  rough-around-the-edges, slightly askew baritone warms like shot of bourbon. Add in his very fine Pickups band and the sum total is a savory dose of country music, real style.

Up in Vermont, The Starline Rhythms Boys rule the honkabilly roost. A band whose music and presentation is rooted in the heyday of C&W, the latest from this very tight and hoppin’ trio brings the listener to SRB central, that being Charlie-O’s World Famous situated in Montpelier. Recorded over two nights in 2007 at the revered Green Mountain State roadhouse venue, Live at Charlie-O’s World Famous (Cow Island Records) at 22 tracks is a big gulp of Starline Rhythm Boys in the perfect setting, a crowded and rowdy barroom of people. Whereas the SRB originals are not too shabby, this live recording offers the band the ooportunity to showcase its excellent taste in covers. Classics from Paycheck to Haggard to Wynn Stewart are proof positive of this trio’s true honky tonk pedigree.

Cow Island Records has been about as reliable as they come in record label land when it comes to releasing authentic honky tonk music. Right on the heals of the live Starline Rhythm Boys recording is the debut from the latest addition to the Cow Island corral, Brooklyn-based honky tonkers The Dixons. For those who know their Bakersfield history when it comes to country music, you know the likes of Buck Owens, Red Simpson, Tommy Collins, and Merle Haggard earned their stripes at the legendary honky tonk The Blackboard. While they call Brooklyn home, a listen to Still Your Fool from The Dixon’s and it’s pretty safe to say these guys would’ve been right at home at The Blackboard in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. Rooted in a classic country sound chock full of pedal steel that drives or cries with the song subject matter, plenty of twangy guitar, and a burly-voiced lead singer in Jeffery Mower whose got an Ernest Tubb flavor to his voice (check out his impressive cover of E.T.’s “Thanks A Lot”!), Still Your Fool from The Dixon’s is a winner.

Like a lot of legend types, Johnny Cash’s image has grown enormously since his death. Even in death, The Man in Black represents the king of cool. Much like what has been done with the Elvis back catalogue, the Legacy Recordings division of Sony BMG Music has been on a similar path with the Cash archives. The Legacy Edition of Cash’s groundbreaking At Folsom Prison recording is the latest from The Man In Black’s lengthy Columbia Records catalogue to get the deluxe repackaging treatment. It takes the listener back to January 13, 1968 and a performance by Cash for the inmates at California’s Folsom State Prison. It resulted in the historic LP, Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison. For the 40th anniversary of that historic performance, Columbia/Legacy roles out the red carpet with a two-CD/DVD set. It features the entirety of each of the two concert performances by Cash and company (June Carter, The Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins) for the inmates on that day gives. The bonus is the DVD which features a newly minted 90-minute documentary chronicling the concert. Oh yeah, there’s a 40-page booklet, too, chock full of photos and new liner notes.


Roy Heinrich –

The Starline Rhythm Boys

Cow Island Records –

Legacy Records –

(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at [email protected].)