Clay Blaker is one of the most successful songwriters to come out of Texas in the past twenty years. Yet mention his name to anyone outside of his Central Texas homebase or beyond the writing clique on Nashville's Music Row and you're liable to elicit a response of, "Who?" Blaker and George Strait are old buddies from the Texas dancehall circuit, where they both started in the 1970s, and Strait has cut seven of Blaker's tunes over the years. Blaker's songwriting career has recently taken off, as some of Nashville's biggest names, including Tim McGraw, LeAnn Rimes, Mark Chesnutt and Clay Walker, have included his songs on their records. But don't let that scare you into thinking Rumor Town, Blaker's first record since 1993, is full of neo-country fluff. While in the past he's leaned more toward western swing, here Blaker delves into a rock-influenced kind of country that recalls the work of Foster & Lloyd, Jim Lauderdale or Kevin Welch, and he pulls it off with charm to spare. Lauderdale actually has a big presence on Rumor Town, lending his vocals to one track, the twang filled ballad "I May Be A Fool", and co-writing three others, including "It's Only 'Cause You're Lonely", a honky-tonk flavored tune with a big beat and some great steel guitar work from Tommy Detamore. Despite his success as a writer, Blaker and his Texas Honky Tonk Band are still slugging it out in Texas bars and dancehalls on a weekly basis. The combination of heart and grit on Rumor Town ought to bring his talent as a bandleader and performer to a much-deserved wider audience.