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Randy Thompson
Further On

Review By Steven Stone
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  If you've ever wondered what the phrase "hardcore country" means, just listen to Randy Thompson's latest release, Further On. Thompson combines the edginess of Steve Earle with the swagger of Waylon Jennings. Unlike many new country artists who confuse slickness with professionalism, Thompson understands that country music needs a little dirt in the mix to sound right.

I reviewed Thompson's sophomore release, That's Not Me, in 2004.  I wrote "He captures the essence of "authentic" country music without working up a sweat." In that respect, not much has changed in the last four years. In Further On Thompson continues to delve into his redneck soul. His original compositions sound familiar, like some old tune we've heard before, but with an intensity you don't find on old records. His renditions of other songwriters' material, such as U. Utah Phillips' "Rocksalt and Nails" can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Before I heard Thompson's rendition of this often-done tune my favorite version was from Buddy Miller, but Thompson's take is every bit as good. Thompson's also not afraid to change an old standard's tune if it suits his purposes. His cover of  "Ol' 97" features a new modal melody line that remakes it into a sprightly yet wickedly eerie song.

Thompson's backup band includes Don Helms, who played pedal steel with Hank William's original Drifting Cowboys band. Other players include Garrick Alden on lead guitar and Thompson's son, Colin, on slide guitar. Fiddle whiz Rickie Simpkins contributes his usual and obligatory hot solos. Self-produced with the help of Garrick Alden serving as recording engineer, Further On captures every instrument clearly but doesn't get too anal with the mix. The song "Leave the Light On" has a heroic post-Phil-Spector character similar to some of Bruce Springsteen's best work.

A true measure of the irresistibility of Further On is that every cut forces my fingers to reach for the volume control so I can turn it up a bit louder.

 

 

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