Miss Leslie & Her Juke-Jointers

Honky Tonk Revival

Wailing pedal steel, crying fiddles, alternately growling and keening Telecasters, plunking upright piano figures and songs about the trouble women and men get into when they spend too much time in barrooms: In Texas, that was what the best country was all about in the '50s and '60s, and that's the honky-tonk stuff Miss Leslie & Her Juke-Jointers revive here.

On the album-opening shuffle, "I'll Be Gone Tonight," Miss Leslie showcases all of her talents: her fiddling, her songwriting, her singing and the top-shelf band she has put together. Miss Leslie's got a fairly deep and very clear alto -- think a touch of Patsy Cline and even more Connie Smith -- and she sings with admirable feeling and control, especially on the soaring parts of the slow weepers like "Stranger in Your Mind" and "I Threw Your Pictures Away," a lovely Spanish guitar-tinged song written by her sister Hilary Sloan. (She fares a little less well on the fast stuff -- her phrasing slips and skids on the dancehall boogie "Honky Tonk Gal.")

Panhandle-bred banjo picker Jake Jenkins wrote all or part of six of the 13 songs here, and he's a master of the dying art of honky-tonk songcraft, as are Bobby Bare, Ray Price and Loretta Lynn -- some of the people who penned the very well chosen covers on this record. And it's plain that the band -- wild steel guitarists Bill Howard and Ricky Davis, fleet-fingered, chicken-pickin' lead guitarist Randy Lindley and choice pianist Damian O'Grady, not to mention Miss Leslie herself on fiddle -- have advanced degrees in this stuff.

You'll want a copy of the instrumental "Bobo's Boogie" along for your next long-haul car trip, trust us. But save the vocal numbers for sometime when you can stretch out, grab a couple of cold longnecks and cut a rug.

 
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