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Sunday, July 21, 2013

ROUTES & BRANCHES   
featuring the very best of americana, alt.country and roots music   
July 20, 2013
Scott Foley 

I remember in my 2005 review of Mike Stinson's Last Fool At the Bar I commented on the Los Angeleno's mastery of the honky tonk vocabulary.  I praised his wicked turn of phrase, touted the twang in his guitar, and hinted to mainstream country sorts that they would do well to take a peek inside Stinson's songbook.  I also commented that his vocals fell somewhere between Jimmy LaFave and Jiminy Cricket -- not in a bad way, mind you ...  In the ensuing years, Stinson picked up and left LA for TX, released another fine honky tonk bar-burner in 2010's Jukebox In Your Heart, and logged countless road trips.  He has also since fallen in with producer RS Field and turned his electric guitar up a couple notches.  The result is Hell and Half of Georgia, which rocks harder than his introductory trio of albums and finds Stinson is strong vocal form, both as a writer and a singer.  There's certainly enough material to keep your honky tonk happy hour patrons on the dance floor, but those rowdy rockers shouldn't overshadow the smarter touch of tunes like "The Box I Take To Work", which hails from the Guy Clark School of Fine Songcraft.  Other cuts such as "This Year" or "Lost Side of Town" reveal Stinson's initial stabs at songs outside of his honky tonk comfort zone.  "This Year" simply rocks, and allows the songwriter to stretch out vocally as well.  Mike Stinson has the talent and the touch that would've made it possible for him to draw a regular crowd as that fun retro guy from LA.  Hell and Half of Georgia, however, validates his decision to leave that space, both geographically and musically. 

I've been touting Bonnie Whitmore's recent There I Go Again over the past few weeks.  Next Episode, Bonnie will be joining us in studio for some chat and a couple live songs. 


*  Denver City Saltlicks, "Baby Jesus Wept"  Denver City Saltlicks  (Self, 10)  C
*  Drive-by Truckers, "Marry Me"  Decoration Day  (New West, 03)
*  The O's, "Outlaw"  Thunderdog  (Self, 13)
*  Houndmouth, "Houston Train"  From the Hills Below the City  (Rough Trade, 13)
*  Truth & Salvage Co., "Games People Play"  Pick Me Up  (Megaforce, 13)
*  Robert Earl Keen, "What I Really Mean"  What I Really Mean  (Koch, 05)
*  Joe Johnson, "Who's Gonna Go Your Bond"  New West Sound  (Blank Tape, 13)  C, D
*  Amanda Shires, "Devastate"  Down Fell the Doves  (Lightning Rod, 13)  D
*  Slaid Cleaves, "Welding Burns"  Still Fighting the War  (Music Road, 13)
*  Hurray For the Riff Raff, "Delta Momma Blues"  My Dearest Darkest Neighbor  (TIAM, 13)  D
*  Avett Brothers, "November Blue"  Country Was  (Ramseur, 02)
*  Patty Griffin, "That Kind of Lonely"  American Kid  (New West, 13)
^  Mike Stinson, "Walking Home In the Rain"  Hell and Half of Georgia  (Poplar Cove, 13)  D
*  Bonnie Whitmore, "Borderline"  There I Go Again  (TIAM, 13)
*  Willie Nelson, "Songbird"  Songbird  (Lost Highway, 06)
*  Scud Mt Boys, "Learn To Love Him"  Do You Love the Sun  (Ashmont, 13)
*  Underhill Rose, "Bare Little Rooms"  Something Real  (Self, 13)  D
*  Two Tons of Steel, "Really Want You"  Unraveled  (Smith, 13)
*  Paladins, "15 Days"  Million Mile Club  (Warner, 96)
*  Halden Wofford & the Hi Beams, "Rocky Mt Honky Tonk"  Rocky Mt Honky Tonk  (Self, 13)  C
*  Chris Stapleton, "What Are You Listening To"  single  (Mercury, 13)  D
*  Rusty Truck, "Cracker Jack Sunday"  Kicker Town  (Crosseyed, 13)
*  John Moreland, "Your Spell"  In the Throes  (Last Chance, 13)
*  Phosphorescent, "Reasons To Quit"  To Willie  (Dead Oceans, 09)
*  Ashley Monroe, "Like a Rose"  Like a Rose  (Warner, 13)
*  Elephant Revival, "Birds and Stars"  These Changing Skies  (Self, 13)  C, D
*  Gillian Welch, "Way the Whole Thing Ends"  Harrow & the Harvest  (Acony, 11)

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