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South (File Under Music)
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings’ eighth album sounds relaxed and real. The folk rock supergroup (fronted in turn by Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson) are onto something good. They got the idea to make a more acoustic album while jamming at festival merch tents.
Though they’ve dropped electric guitar (there are lots of sliding dobro and mandolin flourishes filling in), they’ve maintained their rhythm section, so you can still dance to this record.
The album mines go-to country clichés like driving and women (“Put your sugar down on my front seat, cuz you truly know what’s good for me,” Wilson implores in the opening track, North), but for the most part the songwriting is diverse and mature. Fearing’s falsetto recalls 50s ballads, while Linden’s tunes often sound like Tom Petty. There’s a great version of I’m Still Loving You, as well as a Willie P. Bennett cover (a nod to the band’s namesake). Standout Summertime’s Over is a mid-tempo nostalgic number about empty bottles and an end to suntanning.
Top track: Summertime’s Over