The Twangbangers

26 Days on the Road

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The Hightone label packaged four of their twang-banging roots country rockers into a single multi-artist unit and cut them loose for 26 live dates in the fall of 2001. The result made for an electric and eclectic experience as Joe Goldmark's wailing pedal steel traded licks with Merle Haggard guitarist Redd Volkaert's flying Telecaster and ex-Commander Cody guitar/vocalist Bill Kirchen's remarkably soulful chicken-pickin'. Dallas Wayne kept the honky tonk flames burning with his classic booming baritone and George Jones inflections, crooning tears-in-yer-beer ballads. The show blew the roof off the rooms, yet this recorded document of one night in Springfield, MO, doesn't fully capture the energy the group generated nightly, even though there are many highlights. Ostensibly a live album from its title, the album is interrupted by three studio recordings of the ad-hoc band scattered throughout. Certainly a separate disc of these players united in a controlled recording environment would be logical and welcome, but mixing studio tracks with the concert selections dilutes the power of both. Additionally the live songs seem cut and pasted together, further ruining the flow. And at a disappointing total running time of only 55 minutes (ten of which are devoted to another extended run-through of Kirchen's rusty "Hot Rod Lincoln," which has already been captured on his Hot Rod Lincoln Live album in a similar version), there is room for at least another 20 minutes of music. Regardless of the disc's choppy editing, the interplay works well on individual tracks. The guitarists trade lead vocals along with lightening licks, as the band shifts effortlessly between honky tonk, swing, traditional country, rockabilly, and rock & roll with a few crowd-pleasing truck-driving songs tossed in. Dallas Wayne's achingly slow weepers effectively change the tempo and Joe Goldmark's cracking studio instrumental "Wacky Walk" shows how well his slithering pedal steel can rock with a Bo Diddley-styled backbeat. Not the testament this terrific honky tonk supergroup deserves -- or even one indicative of their rousing, fun-loving gigs -- 26 Days on the Road is nonetheless a fun listen that provides a glimpse of the nightly excitement. But with nonexistent liner notes, blurry pictures, slapdash packaging, and abbreviated playing time, it seems like an afterthought. With more preparation it could -- and should -- have been much better.

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