Red Meat

We Never Close

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Red Meat's contribution to the Americana universe is to stoke the legendary fires of that old Bakersfield sound, as once done by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. There are lots of hearty, fiery, twangy guitar leads that call to mind the leads of Don Rich, and there is a whole parcel of honky tonk soul on this record as well. You can also hear those sepia touches of the Stanleys or Carters, and one gets the sense that this group has absorbed their share of latter-day hippy honky tonk revivalists such as the Flying Burrito Brothers. Originality is not a commodity in this form of country music, but attention to tradition is, as well as the ability to find variation within that ode to tradition. Oakland honky tonkers Red Meat have absorbed a wide spectrum of their predecessors, and their country music is not "all hat"; they go far beyond aping their influences and capture some of that cosmic American soul that Gram Parsons was chasing after on We Never Close. "Honky Tonk Habit" is pure Bakersfield via Buck Owens, while "City Slicker," despite its honky tonk intonations, betrays its producer Dave Alvin, with its pointed, fiery runs. (Alvin produced the whole album and has produced Red Meat in the past as well.) Simply put: this is a great country album that nods to an era when "country" meant something altogether different.

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