Stillwater, OK's, Red Dirt Rangers have long been the banner carriers for the crazy stew that is the Oklahoma sound. Here, the rambling folk melodies of Woody Guthrie; the tough country swing of Bob Wills and Spade Cooley; the shambolic rootsy rock of Bob Dylan; and the freewheeling-fury freakdom of the Grateful Dead all come to roost is a steaming bath of Red Dirt Okie soul. The Rangers get help on this set -- recorded in Leon Russell's old studio in Tulsa -- from guitarist Terry "Buffalo" Ware and fiddler Byron Berline, to name just two. The solid rock & roll leanings of the Rangers are everywhere in evidence here. The opener, "We Don't Have to Say Goodbye," takes the country sound of Wills and strips it through with Doug Sahm's Tex-Mex border rock and the vocal harmonies of the Everly Brothers on the refrains. Then there's the "I Know You Rider" guitar sprawl of "Kite Fliers" that follows. While all of the Rangers songs, written by the exceptionally talented and good-natured Brad Piccolo, evoke the ghosts of some other musical era or artist, that's what they are supposed to do. Piccolo isn't interested in forging a place on the fringes of American music, but choose to be deeply implanted somewhere in the central roots of its sprawling tree. First and foremost, Starin' Down the Sun is a rock & roll album; it comes blazing out of the speakers with both barrels on stun -- even on "Good Morning Maryanne," a greasy rocksteady reggae number! "Dwight Twilley's Garage Sale," on which the elusive rocker guests, is a sweet, shimmering country song that offers a catalog of everything in the sale; the lyrics are clever, funny, and bittersweet. "Elvis Loved His Mama" would be a throwaway in any other band's repertoire, but the Rangers turn it into a steaming, wooly rockabilly track with a moral. The disc closes with the gorgeous cowboy-flavored bluegrass of "Each Step You Take," which is a zen dictum on the revelation in everyday life as witnessed by a quartet of cats who should know. And this gorgeous song sums up the Red Dirt Rangers: They claim to be authorities on nothing and no one; they play their music, offer it on recordings and in person, and go about their business of making more. Consequently, this approach, combined with a steadfast dedication to musical excellence is winning them a fan base far outside of their Oklahoma homeland, though they'd keep doing it just the same if it didn't.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek