Two Dollar Pistols

You Ruined Everything

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Although this might as well have been a John Howie, Jr. solo release (all the musicians except the singer/songwriter have been replaced since the last album), the Two Dollar Pistols continue to refine their pure roots honky tonk on their third full album. Not as polished or commercially appealing as the debut from old crony Tift Merrit, with whom they recorded a sublime EP, Howie continues to mine heartbreak, loss, and the dejected misfortune of love's more crestfallen side that proved successful for George Jones, one of Howie's obvious role models. Certainly, this music is well-written and produced with plenty of emotion, as well as the requisite amount of pedal steel and reverbed guitar. Yet the songs -- all of which are Howie originals -- blend together before the album is half over. Subtle organ on "You've Grown Tired of Me," one of the disc's many ballads, adds a classy touch of R&B, and the Roger McGuinn-style chiming guitar on "Gettin' Gone" provides a nifty folk-rock kick. But the album needs a few more melodic hooks like those in the title track to click with anything other than an already-dedicated honky tonk audience. Falling somewhere between the traditional revivalism of Dwight Yoakam -- but with less sex -- and the more commercial boom of Randy Travis' baritone vocals -- but less calculated -- Howie is the real deal. With some more hummable songs that work off his core country & western, he might be a twang force to be reckoned with. Although this album has highlights and is a consistently satisfying listen, there are too few tracks jumping out of the pack of the down-home honky-tonking that remains at the center of Howie's uncompromising approach.

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