The Derailers

Since their inception, the Derailers have pledged allegiance to the Bakersfield sound of Buck Owens, but they've always transcended simple retro/kitsch appeal. The two singer/guitarists -- Tony Villanueva, with his strong twang, alternating with Brian Hofeldt's Beatlesque bent -- have produced a lot of exciting and underrated music, including 2001's superb Here Come the Derailers.

But this reliable train has careened wildly off the track with Genuine. Clocking in at a record brevity of just 34 minutes, their fifth studio effort is ill thought out, astonishingly empty and easily the weakest entry in their catalog.

In what looks like a desperate attempt to snatch some commercial success, they've enlisted a gaggle of A-list Nashville session players and songwriters. That includes songslinger-for-hire Jim Lauderdale, who is responsible here for the draggy Hallmark card sentiments of "The Way to My Heart" and the half-baked heart-thumping of "Take It Back." Elsewhere, there's yet another utterly useless tribute to the King in "I Love Me Some Elvis," complete with a throwaway list of pop culture attributes that were dated a decade ago. On the record's most deplorable track, the maudlin paean to small-town life "Whole Other World," Villanueva (perhaps to his credit) sounds unconvinced by his own lyrics. But to truly damn it to eternal perdition, all you have to say is this: If "Whole Other World" is ever released as a single, it should be a big hit on modern country radio.

Genuine does have some bright spots -- no Derailers record could not. The Doug Sahm-style "Leave a Message, Juanita" and Britpop-laced title track recall the crackling energy they displayed on Full Western Dress. "Uncool" makes wry sport of Harley-riding CEOs and soccer moms with secret tattoos, and the record closer, "The Wheel," is a beautiful, unadorned country gospel tune that enhances the group's reputation for diversity.

The Derailers have spent years building a solid fan base in Texas, and no one would begrudge them the chance to break out beyond that. But especially as it comes on the heels of their best record, the weak material on Genuine is clearly anything but a truthful representation of the Derailers or their music. De-twanged is de-fanged, and this engine is in need of some routine maintenance.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero