Larry Gatlin

Live at Billy Bob's Texas

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When a country band has spent four decades pleasing the crowds and climbing the charts, you know better than to expect surprises on its live album. And sure enough, there are no surprises here: no quirky cover versions, no time-wasting patter, no charming flubs, or self-indulgent noodling. The Gatlins are nothing if not pros, and professionalism is what you get in spades on this album. To their credit, they don't sound dutiful or bored -- the Gatlins were the first to perform on the stage of Billy Bob's Texas when the nightclub opened in 1981, and they sound like they're genuinely happy to be back. The program is formulaic, but this is country music, where formula doesn't count against you, and the three brothers are still in fine vocal form on such crowd-pleasers as "All the Gold in California" and "I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love." Interestingly, they really seem to come alive on the a cappella gospel numbers ("This is for all the Church of Christ people -- no piano," Gatlin calls out at one point). The hits are what generate the applause, but even the hardest-hearted music snob will sit up and take notice when the Gatlins work their tight vocal magic on "Swing Down Chariot" (less so on the more overweening "Alleluia"). Pretty much everything else is for the fans.

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