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High Noon

Strange Things – 1996 (Watermelon)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by High Noon

Austin's High Noon have been one of the best-kept secrets in the American rockabilly scene for the past several years; a result of stellar live performances, world-class songwriting, and top-notch musicianship. This is their second CD and first available in the U.S.

The best reference point is probably the classic Johnny Burnette Rock 'n' Roll Trio records of the 1950's. Like them, High Noon features a superb lead guitarist, the Merle Travis-influenced Sean Mencher, a driving bass player (Kevin Smith, who played on some of Wayne Hancock's 1995 debut), and a charmismatic frontman who could sing the phone book, Shaun Young. They also share the Trio's drummer-less line-up. The disc is crystal clear without losing any of the debut's warmth.The group focuses entirely on originals, a decision which definitely pays off. Young and Mencher are terrific songwriters who really deliver the goods, particularly on "Call of the Honky Tonk," "Long Empty Stretch of Highway," "Now You're Gonna Be Loved," and "Doggone That Cat." High Noon never sounds contrived or forced.

Rockabilly sounds so natural that it's hard to imagine them playing anything else. This is one of the year's best.