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Buck 50

Red Dirt Road – 1997 (Monkeyfinger)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by Buck 50

This is not the easiest record in the world to get a handle on, when it comes right down to it. That's not to say that it's bad; quite the opposite. The group has the novel approach of mixing psychedelic improvisation and straight-ahead country-rock of the late sixties International Submarine Band/Flying Burrito Brothers variety.

And if that sounds like an invitation to break out the tie-dyed tee-shirts and gas up the Volkswagen, don't bother. The results here are considerably more energetic than anything the Dead and their ilk ever inflicted on us, though the brief "Back of the Mountain" and portions of "Cowboy Joe" bring to mind the improvisational moments of some of the hippie bands of that period.

The group's strength, however, lies in tracks like "I Wanna Run" and the hilarious "Corn Dogs and Cocaine."This is country-rock as it was originally played; more spare, honest, and fun than the overproduced and melodramatic schlock that was passing for the real thing by the mid-seventies. Not the best album of '96 by any stretch, and the occasional moments of improvisation don't do much to enhance the end result. But it's honest and lighthearted, and maybe that's enough.