Sons of the Golden West
Flying Burrito Brothers
The on-again off-again Flying Burrito Brothers are flying again -- kinda -- and while they aren't ... never can be ... what they once were, this record is a lot better than some of what's passing for country music these days. Now led by John Beland, who joined the group in 1981, and Larry Patton (1987), the Burritos retain their honky-tonk orientation with lots of rock thrown in for good measure. (The core of the band is complemented by in-demand Nashville session drummer Gary Kubal and Muscle Shoals steel-guitar wiz Wayne Bridge.) Add in such guests as Merle Haggard (lending that trademark growl to his "Mama's Hungry Eyes"), Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush and, gulp, the Oak Ridge Boys (who actually sound pretty good on the nostalgic "When I Was a Cowboy"), and you've got a pretty good way to spend an hour. Things kick off with the title tune, a kind of tribute to the everycowboy in all of us, but especially guys in country-rock bands and old-time movies. And "Area 51" is a bit of coyotes-howlin'-in-the-night mixed with alien encounters. "Honky Tonk Blues" is a guitar rave-up with Delbert McClinton doing some major string bending. There's a touch of Gram Parsons on "Down at the Palomino," and an off-kilter salute to the founder and fans of the band in the closing "Ode to Gram," which addresses all those middle-aged stoners who still don't know that Parsons is no longer with the band. A diverting enough disc, if this makes you search out those old copies of "Gilded Palace of Sin" or "Close Up the Honky Tonks," then it's time well spent.
A Tribute to Carhenge
The Auto Body Experience
While the cover photo does, indeed, depict Carhenge, the bizarre Nebraska take-off on Stonehenge constructed with wrecked cars, this CD is actually a tribute to all that is frivolous and not worth taking seriously in American culture. You can't make the Auto Body Experience string two sober thoughts together; that's not what they got into the business to do. Instead, guitarist-songwriter Scott Yoho and his mates devote their creativity to examining the mystery of Mr. Potato Head's missing pipe; the possibility that your father paid your friends to play with you; the chronic tardiness of their bass player Tom Larson; the social embarrassment of trying to impress a woman with a baggie of dog feces in your hand; and the process by which formerly young people gradually turn into cranky neighbors like Mr. Wilson (from the Dennis the Menace comic panel). They also deconstruct high school reunions, worthless gizmos purchased from comic book ads and odd experiments by famous scientists. These ideas are presented in a variety of styles, from reggae to calypso to straight-ahead Beatles-style pop rock. Because their palette is so broad and their subject matter so endless, the Auto Body Experience could make CDs like this forever -- which might not be a bad idea. Like all comedy records, the jokes here would probably get stale after a while, at which point your appetite would be whetted for another round of the band's catchy, witty work.