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Go ahead. Find fault if you must. One could argue that "Every Ghetto, Every City" is merely a more upbeat retread of Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City." And yes, "To Zion," a loving ode to her son, is unnecessarily corny. But I'll take Hill's imperfections over blemish-free, plasti-soul professionalism any day.

-- Craig D. Lindsey

Big Sandy
Dedicated to You
Hightone

With his Fly-Rite Boys, tradition-bound stickler Big Sandy has unwittingly become one of the leaders of the current swing revival. But on Dedicated to You, Sandy gives the Boys a break, stows the swing and returns to the music of his youth, namely the doo-wop and R&B 45s his mother and uncles used to play around the house back in the late '50s and early '60s. To help lend the set an authentic aura, Sandy tracked down some true lost originals, including the Calvanes, an obscure Los Angeles vocal group that had a regional hit with "Flee Oo Wee," and Dewey Terry, of Don and Dewey.

Tribute albums of this sort can be fraught with peril. Try to re-create the originals, and you come off pretentious; try to modernize or "improve upon" history, and you sound even more so (think Michael Bolton). Somehow, Sandy largely avoids those pratfalls on Dedicated to You. The arrangements are minimal, though not slavish imitations of the originals, and by sticking to obscure hits and B-sides, Sandy gives himself some wriggling room. "Yama Yama Pretty Momma," a nonsensical bit of jive leaked from the pen of Richard "Louie Louie" Berry, sports a cool retro sax solo by "Cad" Kadison; Sandy's take on Ron Holden's "Love You So" retains the original's melancholic sweetness; and the tracks with the Calvanes -- "Lonely Guy," "Gloria" (by Arthur Lee Maye and the Crowns, not the more famous song by the Cadillacs) and "Have Love Will Travel" -- ooze doo-wop authenticity. Meanwhile, Sandy's own "Baby, Baby Me" sounds not the slightest bit out of place.

A less cozy fit is Sandy's duet with Dewey on "Leavin' It All Up to You," one of the great early soul sides. Good intentions aside, this sleepy update is Dedicated's only off note.

-- j. poet

Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys perform Friday, September 18, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge.

Kim Lenz and Her Jaguars
Kim Lenz and Her Jaguars
Hightone

Challenging the greasers on their own turf, Dallas vixen Kim Lenz and her band come to the rockabilly rumble armed with an alligator handbag stuffed with original tunes, perfect period playing and outfits to match, and an alternately sassy and sexy attitude. So why does Kim Lenz and Her Jaguars inspire such ambivalence?

Certainly, the Bill Haley tribute "Saturday Jump," the jivin' cover of "Ten Cats Down" and the torch ballad "Thinkin' About You" would fit quite nicely on the hippest Happy Days-era jukebox. But the overall impression here is that of a ho-hum, rockabilly-by-the-numbers exercise. With a twangy solo here, a hiccupped female vocal there, Kim and the Jags rarely offer more than a hollow '50s re-enactment -- albeit staged by some very talented musicians. Sure, Lenz deserves credit for relying on her originals (a few more ballads would be nice next time out), rather than simply dipping into the Sun Records catalog. But she needlessly confines herself to that same thigh-slappin' formula time and time again. Still, Kim Lenz and Her Jaguars is just the sort of platter Vince Fontaine would find hard to resist -- if only because he couldn't keep his peepers off the lead babe. Va-voom!

-- Bob Ruggiero

Kim Lenz and Her Jaguars open for Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys on Friday, September 18, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge.

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