The Derailers

Live! From Texas

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The Derailers are a honky tonk band, and honky tonk bands were born to play in roadhouses, where they make the audiences swing and sway at the bar and on the dancefloor all night long. So it makes sense for the Derailers to cut an album at one of their shows, and while Live! From Texas isn't the band's first live effort, enough time has passed (and the band has gone though enough changes) since 1997's Live Tracks to justify bringing a recording rig out to the bandstand again. Many Derailers purists still lament the departure of original vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Tony Villanueva, but Live! From Texas demonstrates the Brian Hofeldt-led version of the group sounds as strong and sweet as ever on-stage, and with Hofeldt joined here by Chris Schlotzhauer on guitar and pedal steel, Kevin Smith (not the guy who made Clerks) on bass, Basil McJagger on keyboards, and Scott Matthews on drums, they conjure up a Bakersfield-style twang with a rock & roll swagger as well as anyone plying this trade in the 21st century. The snap of the rhythm section is impressive as the musicians play crying-in-your-beer music you can dance to with aplomb, not always the easiest combination to pull off. The set list leans to tunes penned by Hofeldt, which might be a miscalculation when they dig deep into their back catalog given the strength of Villanueva's material, but this still makes for a good overview of the Derailers' first 15 years playing America's honky tonks, and given the strength of the performances, it's not hard to imagine them doing this for another decade and a half. Chris Kipp's slightly hollow engineering doesn't quite get the full punch of the Derailers' live sound on Live! From Texas, but that's this album's only serious drawback, and if you've ever hoisted a beer or done the two-step while these guys were on the stage, this album will remind you just how much fun the Derailers can be when they're in their stride.

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