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Doug Seegers

Going Down to the River – 2014 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Rick Bell

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CDs by Doug Seegers

You have to feel a pang of pride when you hear the story of Doug Seegers. In fact, it's not a stretch to say you could have seen him live and didn't even know it. At 62, he's a guy who basically opened his guitar case and played the street corners of Nashville, New York, Austin and probably most every city he's traveled through. Seegers also is now the darling of Sweden's country music crowd and gaining recognition in his home country following this much-ballyhooed debut.

Seegers has that weathered voice of experience, a level of authority that's a bit reminiscent of Townes Van Zandt, yet he's hardly a sulky, folkie troubadour. There's a nasally Hank Williams quality that bubbles up though a 12-song collection that cuts from stone cold country to rollicking roadhouse foot-stompers. Produced by Will Kimbrough with heavy-hitter assists from Buddy Miller and Emmylou Harris, there's a subtle level of sophistication that transports Seegers from aw-shucks street-level busker to cool, confident auditorium performer. It would be totally understandable if something got lost in the translation - but it doesn't.

Seegers is at his best on the title track - a bluesy, atmospheric plea that finds him pining for redemption for God-knows-what. Emmylou offers her backing on Seegers' occasionally bouncy interpretation of Gram Parsons' moody "She." He pulls off a little Whisperin' Bill Anderson on "Lonely Drifter's Cry" and there's a hint of Gary Stewart on "Pour Me."

A novelty? A flash in the pan? Overnight sensation? Okay, that might be going a bit far, considering Seegers has been at it for some four decades.

There's more than enough substance with Seegers' debut. And just enough playfulness that makes you realize that this guy will never take himself or his new-found moment in the sun too seriously.