CD Reviews for 11/15/06 – Dave Insley, Brothers & Sisters, Sunny Sweeney

Compact Capsules for 11/15/06
by Dan Ferguson

Dave Insley
Here With You Tonight
DIR Records DIR-RM 119

Dave Insley plays country music, but not the boot-scootin’, high gloss Nashville kind. Insley first made inroads out of Tucson, Arizona thanks to an alt country blend with plenty of Southwestern seasoning. His debut album from 2005 titled Call Me Lonesome garnered him Best Songwriter of the Year honors from the Arizona Republican. The album also met with mucho favor on non-commercial radio outlets nationwide and had a buzz about it in Americana music circles. Frankly speaking, it was well deserved. Now along comes round two, an equally likeable affair called Here With You Tonight. Now calling Austin home, this latest album represents Insley’s deep Southwest swan song. A plain-voiced singer, it’s that unpretentiousness saddled with candid songs of the road, relationships, and all the regular stuff we deal with that makes Here With You Tonight yet another winner from Mr. Insley. Lot’s of well-placed steel and twangy guitar adds to the frills-free beauty of this collection, whereas guests like Rosie Flores and multi-instrumentalist Rick Shea further up the ante on this recommended recording. (DIR Records, P.O. Box 41162, Austin, TX 78704, or

Brothers & Sisters
Calla Lily Records CLCBS-02

Feel good song of the year? While it’s already November, these ears still haven’t heard anything much better than the song “One Night” from Austin-based newcomers Brothers & Sisters. Kind of poppy and kind of twangy and the kind of guy-girl harmony that strikes a good nerve, it’s the kind of song that you crave to hear. Few things give me more pleasure than taking a chance on a record from a band that I don’t know squat about and then falling for it soon after sticking it in the player. Such was the case with the self-titled debut from Brothers & Sisters. The setting was Waterloo Records in Austin last March. (As an aside, Waterloo is one of the finest record stores in the world.) When in Austin, a visit to Waterloo is always a part of the itinerary. The first stop upon entering the store is always the Texas music rack to see if anything new catches the eye. Packaged in an environmentally friendly plane cardboard case with a bit of hippie-styled artwork on it, and fit into a thin Poly sleeve (what, no cellophane wrapping?), the Brothers & Sisters CD certainly had a low budget, yet arty, kind of look to it. I’m not sure what it was about the package, but that plainness, not to mention the $9.99 price tag, was enticing. In hindsight and after countless spins since purchase, call it a well-spent sawbuck. The overall vibe of the recording from this band that numbers seven members strong is a distinctively sunny Southern California one thanks to a throwback sort of trippy blend with hints of everything from Gram Parsons to Neil Young to the Beach Boys to even the Liquor Giants (Ward Dotson, where are you?). Oh yeah, the guy-gal harmonies that sneak in and out of this debut bring a little Mamas and Papas flavoring in the Brothers & Sisters cosmic pop/country rock stew. Frankly speaking, I dare anyone not to fall in love with this record. (To find out more about Brothers & Sisters, check out

Sunny Sweeney
Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame

She comes from Austin and plays country music. Surely there’s nothing unusual about any of that, but with her debut album called Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame sweet singin’ Sunny Sweeney has plenty of appeal. If a record was judged on song choices alone, what with cherry-picked numbers from the likes of Jim Lauderdale, Iris DeMent, Keith Sykes, Audrey Auld and Tim Carroll, Ms. Sweeney’s Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame would be classified as a homerun. However, we all know it takes much more than the good stuff on the song selection end. What with a natural sounding East Texas piney woods twang to her voice and a collection of some of the best musicians the country side of the Austin scene has to offer, Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame is the complete package and as impressive a debut album as these ears have heard this year. Working almost strictly the Central Texas honky tonk barroom and dancehall circuit for the last several years, this album marks Sweeney’s first venture outside Lone Star lines. As wonderful as her choice of covers may be, the three Sweeney originals – the title track, “Ten Years Pass”, and “Slow Swinging Western Tunes” – amongst the dozen tracks are arguably the best moments on this record. Simply put, if you dig cats and kittens like Jim Lauderdale (who happens to join Sweeney on the standout cut “Lavender Blue” on this album) and Loretta Lynn with a side of Kasey Chambers, then make tracks to Sunny Sweeney’s Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame. (For information on Sunny Sweeney and Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame, check out her web site at

(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].)