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Libbi Bosworth

Libbiville (Ramble Records)

Galveston-born Libbi Bosworth is hitting her stride after a career filled with stops and starts, brief glimpses of stardom and time spent in dead-end towns -- she's finally putting down her roots after recently moving (permanently this time) from Houston to Austin.

Bosworth's 1997 debut, Outskirts of You, was an introduction to her throwback country voice, with just enough nasal twang and so little reverb that you could picture her wearing a Dale Evans skirt in the studio. Elsewhere, though, her spare delivery was derivative to the point that knee-jerk critics penciled in the Patsy Cline references even before the first track ended.

But on Libbiville, she has found a more mature voice, and what's more, her songwriting reflects greater care. There are several gems to be mined here, especially the melancholy "Highway 59," a straight-up two-stepper about her stubborn former trucker of a daddy who ended his days an embittered alcoholic. The lament is colored by the tasteful guitar and steel accompaniment of Casper Rawls and Lloyd Maines, respectively, as well as Gurf Morlix's plaintive backup vocals. "Back Home in Texas" and "South Texas Highway" are packed with generic, sugary Texana (she wears a denim Lone Star State-flag outfit on the CD cover) and fall flat, but will play nicely to Yankees yearning to see those herds of longhorn cattle roaming through our city streets.

A few missteps aside, Bosworth sings with depth and confidence on three "new country" rockabilly ravers, John Sieger's "Disappearing Ink," Alan Andrews's "Necessary" and Bobby Braddox's "Something to Brag About," the second a duet with Toni Price and the last a duet with Don Walser. And on the self-penned "Pine Box," Bosworth dons a layer of Lucinda-style mascara and, in the album's nicest arrangement with Morlix doubling on every word, delivers an ode to a philanderer about to be lowered into the ground: "I'm pulling up a lawn chair in the soft moonlight," she sings. "'Cause I know who you'll be sleeping with tonight."

Bosworth is itching to expand her fame beyond the Gulf Coast now that she has settled in Austin. The alt-country music map should make room for another town: Libbiville.

 
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