Burlington may be a long haul from Bakersfield, but the warm twang and wine-fueled heartache of Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and their fellow Okie pickers has long captured the souls of the local music community.
On his first full-length disc, Lowell Thompson has assembled a crack group of old and new-school pickers, including Bill Mullins, Kirk Flanagan, Tyler Bolles, Russ Lawton, Steve Hadeka and Gordon Stone. With a band this hot, you could hand the mike to any stranger stumbling out of Esox and still sound Grand Ole Opry-ready. To his credit, Thompson proves himself more than capable as a front man. His gritty groan and steady-handed acoustic strums nicely complement Mullins' slick pickin' and the saunter of the rhythm section.
Lyrically, Thompson sticks to tried-and-true country themes of love lost and barroom nights spent salting beer with tears. Yet he tosses in enough winking turns of phrase to avoid cliché.
While many young male country-rockers -- especially those with long locks and high cheekbones -- get tagged with Gram Parsons comparisons, Thompson most resembles Ryan Adams, both in his depth of talent and trend of not quite fulfilling it. But on his best cuts -- such as the one-two punch of swinging opener "Anna" and the ragged ballad "Crenshaw" -- Thompson swaggers like an appropriately stoned rhinestone cowboy.
Though not without its faults, Thompson's record impresses more often than not. With more miles under his belt and the continued tutelage of elder players, chances are he'll soon be breaking hearts by the hundreds.