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Charlie Chesterman

Studebakersfield – 1998 (Slow River)

Reviewed by Joel Bernstein

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CDs by Charlie Chesterman

When it comes to a country singing voice, Charlie Chesterman is one scruffy cat. It's probably just a coincidence that his former band was called Scruffy The Cat. That Boston-based band would have been called "roots rock" had anyone coined the term yet. No, Chesterman doesn't have the greatest voice in the world, but at least it has some body and flavor to distinguish it from the nasal drone currently running rampant in alternative country. Despite its title, this album has very little connection to the "Bakersfield Sound." It's more Austin than anything else. In fact, at times - especially on midtempo songs when he brings his voice down a notch - Chesterman bears some resemblance to Jerry Jeff Walker. Seventeen songs (all originals) gives you plenty of value, and most are solid. The disc does bog down a bit towards the end when Chesterman tries a couple of slow songs that he doesn't really have the voice for. "Studebakersfield" is mostly straight-ahead country, with a token venture into rockabilly. There's nothing earth-shattering or groundbreaking here, but it's an album well worth listening to.