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Hillbilly Idol

Town and Country – 1998 (HBI)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Hillbilly Idol

This impressive debut by Ohio's Hillbilly Idol is rooted in the honky tonk and western swing music of the '50's, which in today's market means that they will be labeled "alternative."

Most notable are the harmonies reminiscent of the Louvin Brothers andthe Wilburn Brothers - particularly on a remake of the Wilburns' "SomeoneBefore Me" and the Texas Swing of "It All Depends on You."

The instrumentation is pure country. Paul Kovac lends a bluegrass feelon mandolin, while lead guitarist Dave Huddleston provides some tastefulsolos. Especially impressive is steel guitarist Al Moss, particularly on the instrumental "Half Empty" which recalls Red Rhodes' work with Michael Nesmith and the First National Band. Hillbilly Idol also demonstrates excellent songwriting. Moss' "If ItWere Only Easy" sounds as if it were written for George Jones. Other highlights are Huddleston's "Straight to the Heart" and Kovac's "When It Rains I Get Wet."

Of the songs composed by other writers, Steve Downey's "The Ways of theWorld" could have been a hit just a few years ago, but it is unlikely tofind a home with today's generic hot country. Another standout cover is"Those Shoes" by Kevin Welch and Harry Stinson. Hillbilly Idol has a sound that mainstream country radio seems to nolonger comprehend, but fans of real country will love.