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Cliff Westfall

Baby You Win – 2018 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by Bill Caruthers

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CDs by Cliff Westfall

Based out of New York City, Cliff Westfall has Kentucky roots that trace all the way back to the hometown of the King of Bluegrass himself, Bill Monroe, and with a backing band that includes stints with almost everyone from Bruce Springsteen, Norah Jones and Shooter Jennings to Danger Mouse, he's delivered a throwback country album that could've been heard pumping from many a jukebox in a 1960s country roadhouse. The first two cuts, "It Hurt Her to Hurt Me" and the title track are up tempo numbers that could easily be imagined being belted out by Faron Young.

Westfall proves himself a solid songwriter and an astute sense of what he is saying and how it will be heard. Standouts include the ballad "Till the Right One Comes Along" an ode to wishful thinking and the retro "More and More" with wordplay that recalls Bill Anderson at his best. A sleeper cut is the Vern Gosdin cover "Hanging On" with Westfall giving an able interpretation. On "I'll Play the Fool," he conjures Mercury vintage Jerry Lee with even a touch of the Hag. "The Man I Used to Be" could easily be a modern George Strait standard, and "A Lie if You Must" brings to mind the Louvin Brothers crossed with Gram Parsons.

The sadder cuts notwithstanding, Westfall exhibits a humor throughout that seem a little overlooked today. Roger Miller and Shel Silverstein could easily have co-written several of these cuts. Not a powerhouse vocalist, Westfall nonetheless proves himself one of the most clever and consistent songwriters and interpreters around today. There is no drop off across the board. Enjoy the ride on the Way Back machine.