This Austin act's two new albums prove that your arms are never too short to shake hands with the upper management of Hillbilly Heaven.
How else do you explain the spirit of Buck Owens' majestic late guitarist Don Rich entering the body and fingers of The Derailers' crackling twangmaster Brian Hofeldt? How else could Wynn Stewart's whompin' California honky-tonk sound so permeate the being of lead singer and principal songwriter Tony Villanueva?
Critically overlooked since relocating to Austin from Oregon a few years back, The Derailers are finally getting the recognition they've self-effacingly earned night after night at Austin's venerable local roadhouse The Broken Spoke.
Live Tracks (Freedom) and Jackpot (Watermelon) showcase the core trio's joyous harmonies and Buck-ed up songwriting in two vastly different settings.
Those who hanker for a raw-and-ready slice of the country pie will cast their vote for Live Tracks, a crashing, 14-song set of the band's stage favorites like "Big City Blues," "Lies, Lies, Lies" and "Jackpot," laid on fast and informal in Austin radio station KUT's Studio 1-A in October 1994.
Ex-Blaster Dave Alvin lends a helping hand as producer of Jackpot, a slicker,more stoic affair which includes new studio recordings of all of the aforementioned tunes, plus a grab bag of newer ballads like the haunting, "Desperate Ways."
When viewed against the chilling backdrop of Garth and Wynonna, both albums are mighty compelling alternatives to the washed-out mainstream-country thang. Jackpot will make you smile. Live Tracks will steal your honky-tonk heart.