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Lost Highway is still hanging on, though Keen is gone and neither Adams nor Williams sold the way the label suits hoped. Lucky Dog today pretty much exists in name only.

What went wrong? As it happens, the Derailers perfectly exemplify what happened. Lucky Dog signed them straight out of their adopted hometown of Austin, where their hard-charging update on the Buck Owens Bakersfield sound had won them legions of devout fans. So what did Lucky Dog do? Encourage more of the same, and give the band a bigger budget? Of course not. In a misguided effort to mollify the moronic sheep who run country radio, they drafted in a bunch of Nashville producers (Kyle Lehning), songwriters (Jim Lauderdale, Al Anderson, Gary Nicholson and Kostas) and session players (Dan Dugmore and John Jarvis) to contribute material, ideas and guidance.

Talented men all, with track records beyond reproach…But still, all the band's two Lucky Dog records did was divorce the Derailers from a fan base that had loved them for years. The label invariably chose to make singles of the worst tunes on each of the albums, the songs that sounded the least like the Derailers people knew and loved and the most like what other drivel corporate radio's maw was begging to be spoon-fed that particular week. And even the crappy tunes they submitted didn't get much play. You couldn't drink Shiner Bock to the Derailers anymore -- Coors Light maybe, but not anything richer than that.

All in all, the Derailers signing with Sony was like ditching a good, intelligent woman who loved you for who you were and throwing it all away for a fling with a hottie with a heart of obsidian and a brain of oatmeal, one who didn't laugh at your jokes, wanted you to wear gel in your hair and tuck in your shirt. A common mistake, but a mistake nonetheless, and one with terrible consequences…

In January of this year, guitarist and founding member Tony Villanueva announced that he was quitting the group. He had seen the light, literally. Well, almost literally -- he found God and renounced his wicked honky-tonkin' ways, and the remainder of the band announced a hiatus. Which is now over, obviously. Austin guitar legend Caspar Rawls has filled in for Villanueva some, though the band has yet to find a more permanent replacement. But in the meantime, the Derailers have got a lot of 'splainin' to do with their fans. -- John Nova Lomax

Saturday, June 19, the Bill Mraz Dance Hall, 835 West 34th, 713-864-HALL.

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