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Hobart Willis and the Back Forty

Introducingè – 2001 (Back Forty)

Reviewed by Andy Turner

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CDs by Hobart Willis and the Back Forty

Sometimes it seems as if all the young folks in central North Carolina are either playing basketball or learning how to fiddle. With country-influenced groups like The Backsliders, 6 String Drag and Whiskeytown having either broken up or taken long hiatuses, the twang torch in the state capital area still burns thanks to potent shots of whiskey like this being blown on it from time to time. You're likely to hear similarities to The Backsliders and Chapel Hill's Two Dollar Pistols on this six-song EP. It's even produced by John Plymale (Squirrel Nut Zippers, Superchunk), who handled those duties on the Pistols' first album.

But while the Back Forty certainly share an appreciation for hardcore honky tonk and aren't afraid to venture down the streets of Bakersfield, Willis' deep-but-sweet vocals and the rockabilly-funkiness the band shows on songs like "Wicked Ways of Love," "Me, My Baby, And the All-Night Radio" and "Needle to the Groove" make them stand up on their own. Willis, with two scoops of Waylon Jennings and a sprinkle of Johnny Bush on top in his voice, particularly shines on the slower songs like "The Way We're Living" and "Painted Picture," his vocals matched perfectly with banjo and mandolin. With only six songs, this EP leaves the listener with the best kind of criticism a band can get: more please. (E-Mail: hobartwillis@hotmail.com)