Various Artists

Viva! Terlingua! Nuevo!: Songs of Luckenbach Texas

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In January of 2006, the Palo Duro label put on a two-night showcase in the venerable Luckenbach Dance Hall. The roster was a mixture of artists new and old, and included Morrison-Williams, Kent Finlay, Walt Wilkins, Two Tons of Steel, Cory Morrow, and the Derailers, among others. If, as one must suppose, this disc documents the highlights of those two nights, then it must have been a pretty uneven affair -- though the audience seems to be having plenty of fun throughout, and maybe that's all that counts. Those listeners coming to the music at one remove, though, might be less enthused about, say, Brian Burns' overlong "Desperados Waiting for the Train" or John Arthur Martinez's defiantly ├╝ber-hokey "Viva! Luckenbach!" than the crowd seems to have been. One problem an album like this makes clear is the inherently limited appeal of songs about Texas in general, let alone about Luckenbach in particular. If they're singing about your home then it's natural to get all caught up in the spirit of a song like "Luckenbach Daylight." But if you're from somewhere else, you tend to focus more on the song itself, and that's not always very rewarding. Count on Morrison-Williams to redeem the genre handily, though (with their brilliant "What I Like About Texas") and on Two Tons of Steel to do the same (in part by changing the subject from Texas to sangria). Uneven, but not bad overall.

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