Danny & Dusty

Cast Iron Soul

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Nostalgia is more often a curse than a blessing, and watching an old reprobate drag himself through a fresh batch of debauchery in the hopes of impressing others is usually about as pathetic as entertainment gets. So while it was hard not to smile when word got out that Steve Wynn and Dan Stuart were pulling their Danny & Dusty act out of mothballs for a reunion album, somehow the prospect of booze-addled trash talking from two guys in their early fifties sounded awfully lame. And thankfully, Wynn and Stuart are smart enough to realize that; twenty-two years after the one-shot semi-masterpiece The Lost Weekend, their second Danny & Dusty album, Cast Iron Soul, is the work of guys who haven't lost their talent or their sass but know how to act their age at the same time. The opening cut puts the cards on the table by asking "What was so damn great about being young and free/Wasting all those hours ignoring destiny" to close with the big question "Why does everybody want to talk about the good old days?" And though that's not quite the last we hear of "the good days" on Cast Iron Soul, Wynn and Stuart know that more than two decades have passed and they've got other things to talk about than L.A. in the '80s. The troubadours cast a jaundiced but playful eye on a new generation in "Warren Oates," honor friends and lovers in "Thanksgiving Day" and the title tune, ponder the city that they now call home in "New York City Lullaby," and try to offer some sage advice in "Hold Your Mud." The performances are a good bit less chaotic than on The Lost Weekend, but both Stuart and Wynn are in arguably better voice than they were in 1985, and the band -- which includes fellow paisley underground veterans Steve McCarthy and Chris Cacavas and L.A. refugees Johnny Hott and Bob Rupe -- gives the music a warm autumnal glow that suits these songs well while still kicking up the dust when the spirit moves them. If The Lost Weekend was the sound of two beer-soaked desperadoes trying to make like they were The Last Gang In Town, Cast Iron Soul plays like Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country, in which two scarred but capable gunslingers hit the trail again and demonstrate just how much they've learned over the years, both about their work and about themselves. Talk about a pleasant surprise.