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David Brake and That Damn Band

Lean, Mean Texas Machine (Westerland Records)

Every now and then you get a very good local record that totally takes you by surprise. This is one of those albums, a well-written and performed, well-packaged 11-song country-rock effort by an obscure guy worthy of much wider tradition.

Brake was formerly one of the dueling piano players at City Streets on the Richmond Strip, and in addition to tapping the keys he also sings, plays guitar and bass, and wrote all the songs here. Brake calls it rock, but his strong twang would land this album most often in the country bins, but there are also strong classic rock, blues and adult contemporary undercurrents, not to mention a strict avoidance of lyrical clichés. (Yes, there are some songs about places in -- as the dregs of the genre would put it -- "Tek-shus," but here they have narrative points beyond a mere recitation of towns and rivers.)

"All Mine" is strongly reminiscent of the Beatles' swirlingly psychedelic Revolver tune "She Said, She Said," while on the title track and "Swindler," That Damn Band sounds like AC/DC with a fiddle. On the unaccompanied piano lounge number "Think of Me," Brake shows off his jazz piano chops and conjures more than a little Dr. John hoodoo, while album opener "Even Five to Closing Time (What Do I Do Now)" has a George Strait vibe. Vague echoes of John Prine and David Allan Coe can be heard elsewhere, mostly in Brake's weather-beaten voice, though also in snatches of the lyrics.

If all this sounds quite varied, that's because it is, and that's the way Brake feels it should be. On his Web site, he states his declaration of purpose thusly: "It's all about the song." He doesn't care about what you call his music, so long as his songs are good, and they are, and that's why you'll be hearing a lot more from this guy.

 
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