Sons of the San Joaquin

Way Out Yonder

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In this day and age, it's hard to sing cowboy songs in the manner of the Sons of the Pioneers and not sound either campy or a bit delusional, and it's a tribute to their great love of the form that the Sons of the San Joaquin not only approach their material with superb craft but a sincerity and commitment that rings clear and true every time they go into the recording studio. Released in 2006, Way Out Yonder is the trio's seventh album, and finds the Sons at the top of their game as the finest cowboy act around today. While brothers Jack and Joe Hannah and Joe's son Lon Hannah harmonize beautifully, it's Jack's emphatic lead vocals and fine songwriting that truly set this group apart -- if he's not the leader of the group, he's certainly first among equals, and he understands the musical and iconographic history of the American West well enough to write songs like "The Famous Long X Brand," "It's the Open Range for Me," and "Way Out Yonder" with an immediacy and heart that strip away any patina of cheap nostalgia. It's also a testament to the Sons of the San Joaquin's talents that they can perform covers of such classics as "Mexicali Rose" and "There's a Rainbow Over the Range" and make them fit effortlessly alongside Jack's originals, and that their clean but uncluttered new recordings can draw the same sort of emotional impact as the originals. Way Out Yonder is a fine recording from a group that's truly the best at what it does, and it's a gentle pleasure to hear.

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