Honky-tonk is rarely performed on such a high level as when the Austin supergroup Heybale takes the stage. With Merle Haggard guitarist Redd Volkaert leading the ensemble, these Austin Continental Club Sunday-night regulars can set boots to scootin' and cause that old cheatin' impulse to come front and center at the drop of a G chord. The résumés are intimidating. Besides Volkaert, there's pianist Earle Pool Ball, who's played with Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Haggard and the Byrds; bassist Kevin Smith, a regular with rockabilly legend Ronnie Dawson and the Brian Setzer Orchestra; drummer Tom Lewis, who's kept time for Junior Brown, Jesse Dayton, Jim Lauderdale and country legend Connie Smith; and guitarist-vocalist Gary Claxton, who's been described as a "Nashville dark horse." This is the band that prominently displayed on its first album the disclaimer "Absolutely No Overdubs." They don't need 'em. The repertoire consists mostly of tearjerker classics like "Apartment No. 9," "Motel Time Again" and Gene Watson's "Farewell Party," but they'll also mix it up with the occasional Chuck Berry rocker like "You Never Can Tell." Dancing shoes are a must.
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William Michael Smith