When honky tonk singer/songwriter David Ball took country programmers (and hence country listeners) by surprise back in the late '90s -- because unless the country programmers (Nash Vegas' fascist culture police) can unplug their payola-ed ears long enough for something to penetrate, no one ever gets to hear anything new -- with "Thinkin' Problem," and got himself nominated for every single award a new artist can, he's since dropped off the screen. Why? Amigo may provide an answer. Rather than follow up his hit with another track just like it and an album full of them, which is what the majors and country programming geeks want, Ball stayed true to his muse and his own idea of what country music was supposed to be. As a result, Amigo is the finest record he's ever done and the one least likely to get him anywhere out of Nash Vegas in terms of radio. However, the alterna-country fans out there, and that guy Michael Elta who runs BikerBar Internet Radio, should get hip to him. If they did, Ball's record might get the hearing it truly deserves. This is real country music, full of honky tonk memories, easy Western swing blues, and tough, lean-hearted stories peopled with broken heroes, shattered love affairs, and the determination to never give up in the face of defeat. And what's weird, there isn't anything on this album that isn't "commercial" enough to connect with people if they ever had the opportunity to hear it. OK, enough of the manifesto -- the songs on Amigo are stellar. There's the opening title track (written with country giant Kostas) with its fiddle lines, steel guitar wranglings, and slippery horns. Then there's the awesome "She Always Talked About Mexico," with its killer Buck Owens' melody and mariachi band backing. And then there's the solid Merle Haggard/Bob Wills-ish shimmy of "Swing Baby," one of the finest party songs of the last ten years with a gorgeous Andrews Sisters-styled chorus in the background. And as far as badass old Texas tunes, there's "New Shiner Polka," with the accordion blaring and the pedal steel whipping up a storm of atmosphere on an instrumental break in the midst of the carousing, heartbreak, and regret that is Amigo. There isn't a weak moment here, as Ball has given listeners one of the purest, most solid, and most accessible (largely because of his gorgeous, mellifluous tenor) country & western records in over a decade. And, as much as one might love the Hag, this disc blows his If I Could Only Fly away.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek