Mike Stinson

Dwight Yoakam, who cut Mike Stinson's "Late Great Golden State" on 2003's Population Me, isn't the only country singer to realize Stinson may be the best writer of stone-cold honky-tonk songs on the planet today. Jesse Dayton, no slouch as a honky-tonk writer himself, is producing Stinson's next album. "The guy is like Roger Miller, just the wittiest writer out there right now," Dayton says. "I just played a show with Dave Alvin, and Mike stole the show from us." Fresh from his sessions with Dayton in Austin, Stinson comes armed with a new batch of songs with can't-miss titles like "I've Got No One to Drink With Anymore," the Ray Price-ish "Other Side of the Blues," the sentimental "I'd Make It This Time" and smash-in-waiting "Square With the World." When he sings "square with the world, that's how I wanna live, only take what I need and give what I can give," his Dust Bowl voice makes it almost sound like a lost Merle Haggard hit. And when Stinson originals like "Tomorrow's Gonna Hurt" or "Take Out the Trash" aren't making audiences cry in their beer, he'll pull out an old Chuck Berry rocker and set the stage on fire. A mainstay of the L.A. country and singer-songwriter scenes, Stinson doesn't come this way often, so for any fan of great writing and honest delivery, this is not to be missed.

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William Michael Smith