Josh Abbott Band

Small Town Family Dream

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It's tempting to view Josh Abbott as a half-generation-on version of Steve Earle. Abbott definitely fits into that wonderfully maverick line of Texas singers and songwriters that includes Earle, Terry Allen, and so many others. So, yeah, he sounds a lot like Earle sometimes, with tightly observed songs that tell the stories of small-town, blue-collar Texas folks trying to deal with life, love, and the desperate pursuit of redemption and happiness. It's country, yes, but it's a quirky kind of country, often more like Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers with fiddles and banjos than it is like George Strait. And as Abbott and his band's third album shows, when it works, it works very well. Small Town Family Dream is a concept album of sorts, detailing the romantic, economic, and restless lives born of growing up in a small Texas town. The first song here, "Idalou," literally introduces Abbott's hometown, and, full of chiming electric guitars, it races into stories detailing love, farming, and cutting loose in a small town, finally summing things up with the richly detailed title tune, "Small Town Family Dream." Somewhere in there Abbott manages to seamlessly stitch in covers of Terry Allen's "FFA" and "Flatland Farmer," both of which add a kind of welcome edginess to things. Abbott knows what he's doing. At this point, all he needs to do is to stay out of Nashville and keep doing it.

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