Stoney LaRue

Live at Billy Bob's Texas

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There's a difference between being a band that plays in a lot of bars and being a bar band, but the distinctions blur a bit on this live set from Oklahoma country-rocker Stoney LaRue. LaRue won some positive press for his debut studio set, 2005's The Red Dirt Album, but while LaRue has a strong, emotive voice and some real talent as a songwriter, on this live disc -- recorded in front of a seemingly well-oiled audience on a Friday night -- he plays for the crowd in a manner that suggests he wanted to make sure the last guy in the back of the room didn't miss anything, and the result is a performance sorely lacking in any subtlety. Rather than pull songs from his catalog that might lean toward fine detail, LaRue and his band fill their set list with over the top stuff like "Solid Gone" and "One Chord Song" (and yes, it really is) along with a batch of covers that anyone who hangs out in a country or blues club is likely to already know by heart. (Sure, "Forever Young" and "The Weight" are great songs, but there isn't much to do with them that hasn't already been done, and LaRue doesn't bring anything fresh to his interpretations.) While LaRue's bandmembers have solid chops, they stomp through their arrangements with the light touch of a Clydesdale (especially drummer Jeremy Bryant), and LaRue swaggers through the show like he's playing in an arena rather than a club, and in this context that isn't a compliment. On Live at Billy Bob's Texas, LaRue's blend of blues figures and country-rock arrangements leans toward the lowest common denominator in both genres, and the result is a performance that might have sounded good in a crowded bar after four or five beers while you were hitting on some cute number, but it doesn't seem like much the next morning in the cold and sober light of day.

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