Jesse Dayton / Brennen Leigh

Holdin' Our Own and Other Country Gold Duets

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It's a sad commentary on the country music industry circa 2007 that an album as fine as Jesse Dayton's Holdin' Our Own is listed as alt country and/or Americana. This is the kind of music that Nashville was built on, but in the early part of the 21st century, the mainstream country establishment doesn't want anything to do with songs that have the least bit of grit or reality in them. After a decade or so playing solo gigs and adding his talents to the bands of Waylon Jennings and Ray Price, to drop just two names, Dayton has written an album of traditional male/female country duets, full of the subtle humor and fine picking that used to be the hallmark of country music. Brennen Leigh, better known as a bluegrass singer, plays a solid Loretta Lynn to Dayton's Conway Twitty, and brings plenty of spunk to the proceedings. "Let's Run Away" is an exuberant Tex-Mex flavored bit of rockabilly that namechecks exotic places from Timbuktu to Waikiki in its giddy fantasies of escaping the humdrum life. Dayton's guitar and Riley Osbourne's organ add to the exuberant vibe. "Two Step Program" is a classic with the kind of clever wordplay that used to mark most country hits. It's the story of a couple making up after a round of infidelity by dancing together again in their favorite bar. The witty wordplay and Nathan Fleming's high-spirited pedal steel work make the tune sparkle. "Take Me" is pure George Jones/Tammy Wynette. Dayton has Jones' inflection down cold, complete to that little back-of-his-throat whine, and "We Hung the Moon" is just killer, a romantic song of lost love dripping with aching regret driven home as the pairs' high harmonies drift up the scale to a wailing, tear stained, near falsetto. "Somethin' to Brag About" is another hit, a merry Bakersfield style celebration of working class love, a high-spirited tribute to the giddy power of true love. The covers of classic material here ain't half bad either. The duo's rendition of the Webb Pierce tearjerker "Back Street Affair" is pure country soul, the Carter/Cash hit "Long Legged Guitar Pickin' Man" gets an energetic reading highlighted by Dayton's stellar fretwork, and the Everly Brothers/Boudleaux and Felice Bryant chestnut "Brand New Heartache" gets reinvented as a honky tonk rocker featuring Dayton's guitar and more brilliant piano by Osbourne. Many times the covers are the best tracks on a country record, but Dayton's originals, particularly "Two Step Program" and "Somethin' to Brag About" can stand up tall and proud next to any of the classics.

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