Reviewed by Rev. Keith A. Gordon
There have been discussions about what is wrong with Nashville since Billy Sherrill added strings to a country song almost 40 years ago. The argument will never be settled, 'cause there's "Country," the radio-friendly, focus group-driven commodity, and then there's "country," the kind of music preferred by the John D. Hale Band. With this, the band puts its finger on the pulse of all that is great about roots music. Hale's dusty, raw vocals grow on you faster than kudzu on a Georgia hillside, his songwriting reminiscent of Willie Nelson, Guy Clark and Steve Earle.
Don't believe for a second that Hale is anything short of pure-D original, though. Yeah, he cribs from the best - you'll hear more than a few strains of Willie, Waylon even Toy Caldwell. The band effortlessly blends country, rock and bluegrass into a familiar yet original and invigorating sound, songs like the escapist fantasy "Tired Of Being Me" or the somber story-song "Rebel Soldier" showcasing both Hale's songwriting skills and the band's musical chemistry. The album's hidden track, "Outlaw Groove," sums up the band's stance perfectly, name checking JC, Willie, Jerry Jeff and other legends in a call for "something new." The John D. Hale Band is that something new, their debut offering up honest working-class country: all guts, grit and soul. (2325 County Road 618 Jackson, MO 63755, 573-243-7150/979-7069, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)