As a label showcase band, few labels would have been able to put together a unit as tight, talented and experienced as HighTone's TwangBangers, a six-piece ensemble of roots and country veterans who have fronted their own outfits as well as performed as integral members of national acts.
The putative lead 'Banger, Bill Kirchen -- with his Too Much Fun bassist Johnny Castle and drummer Jack O'Dell -- provide a rock-solid foundation for a band that includes Fender whiz Redd Volkaert (Merle Haggard's guitarist), pedal steel innovator Joe Goldmark, and honky-tonk singer Dallas Wayne.
The disc, which documents their recent tour, includes a dozen songs, nine of them from a show in Springfield, Missouri, recorded by the Skeletons' Lou Whitney. The other three were recorded in a studio in Springfield, Virginia.
The harmonics of the blazing twin Telecasters on "I Got A Rocket In My Pocket" and "Rockabilly Funeral" are aural delights; Goldmark's "Wacky Walk", with its snaky steel lead and stuttering rhythm, wends its way into the brain for days; and the strings go nuts on the antiquey "How Mountain Girls Can Love", sung by O'Dell.
Wayne's big ballads play better in person, but his take on Robbie Fulks' witty "Rock Bottom" and Volkaert's somewhat lewd "She Loves Anything That Swings" are reason enough for roots fans to rejoice. And if you don't already have enough versions of Kirchen's signature song "Hot Rod Lincoln", this one has 42 "passed us bys."