Steve Forbert has sometimes been tagged a "new Dylan," but, despite his having been born and raised in Meridian, MS, and being known to sometimes break into a convincing rendition of "In the Jailhouse Now" in concert, he has never been accused of being a new version of Meridian's other musical native son, Jimmie Rodgers. Forbert aims to change that with this album, subtitled, "Songs of Jimmie Rodgers." Forbert doesn't actually sound like Rodgers, of course, not with his gravelly tenor and absence of a real "blue yodel" among his vocal abilities (not that he doesn't try). Along with co-producers Garry Tallent and Tim Coats, he does not re-create the Rodgers arrangements, but employs a range of acoustic instruments, along with some electric ones, to present contemporary folk-rock treatments that nevertheless hark back to the songs' origins. The most radical departure comes with "My Rough and Rowdy Ways," which is done in the 1950s rock & roll style of Buddy Holly. For the most part, Forbert avoids Rodgers' best-known songs, the exception being the leadoff track, "Waiting on a Train." Because of the depth of Rodgers' songwriting talent, that still allows for plenty of good, relatively unfamiliar tunes such as the title song and "Ben Dewberry's Final Run." The result is a strong tribute to a great musician that also illuminates his influence on a very good one.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann