The Derailers

Here Come the Derailers

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It says a lot about the current state of affairs in Nashville that the Derailers, one of the finest retro-style country acts around, are able to make better and more purely C&W-oriented albums recording for a Texas-based indie label than for one of the Big Boys on Music Row. Here Come the Derailers, the group's fourth studio album, is their first for Lucky Dog, a Sony imprint, and the idea seems to have been to create an album that rides a middle ground between the spunky Buck Owens-style honky tonk of their earlier albums and something that might find airplay on contemporary country radio. Unfortunately, the formula turns out to have been a little off, and producer Kyle Lehning has added enough polish to the Derailers' sound that a large percentage of the group's personality has been buffed away in the process. While Brian Hofeldt's picking is as stellar as always and Tony Villanueva's vocals are in fine form, the energetic snap of the band's best work is considerably muted here, and the glossy keyboard and steel overdubs generally don't add to the songs, but take away from them. While there's some great material on board -- the honky tonkin' wit of "Bar Exam," the spunky "There Goes the Bride," and the Orbison-esque "I See My Baby" -- there's an uncomfortable amount of filler, especially the failed weepers "All the Rage in Paris" and "My Angel's Getting Tired." And while covering "Mohair Sam" sure sounds like a good idea, the results are disappointing, though their take on Arthur Alexander's "If It's Really Got to Be This Way" is terrific. Here Come the Derailers isn't a bad album -- this band is far too talented for their virtues not to shine through -- but it's a far cry from the high-spirited retro-twang of their earlier albums, and while a lot more people are likely to hear this record, it's not an introduction that flatters the group.

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