Rockhouse Ramblers: Torch This Town (Hayden’s Ferry)

“Everybody Gonna Rock” ia so feet-friendly, it should compel even the most lumpish listener to make its title come true. The Rockhouse Ramblers must have missed a memo about sophomore slumps, because their new CD, Torch This Town, charms just as much as their 2000 debut, the rollicksome Bar Time.

Torch This Town, happily, preserves the lineup from its predecessor: on bass, Dade Farrar; on percussion, Danny Kathriner; and on guitar, John Horton and Gary Hunt (dual leads) and Kip Loui (rhythm). Just as happily, the disc (whereon Farrar, Hunt, and Loui also still split vocal and songwriting duties) likewise preserves the Rockhouse Ramblers’ focus on neo-traditional country; it has little if any relationship to the soporific stuff now monopolizing corporate country radio (which generally comprises sonic leftovers from ’80s rock). Indeed, the title song promises that the band’s “gonna rip, gonna roar, gonna do it up right”—and on the dozen tracks here, that promise doesn’t go unfulfilled.

Torch This Town starts strong, with “Learning How to Live With the Blues,” an absolutely splendid honky-tonk lament on lost love, and ends similarly, with “Everybody Gonna Rock,” a number so feet-friendly it should compel even the most lumpish listener to make its title come true. Between those two tracks await other pleasant surprises. For instance, big rigs and bigger love occupy “Truck Drivin’ Buddy,” the CD’s sole cover (from Frankie Miller), and the zingy eighth track, an instrumental, pays homage to one of country’s grandmasters in both its tone and its title: “All Bucked Up.” Moreover, various of the remaining songs recall Sun-era Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, and even Buddy Holly.

In the end, though, the Rockhouse Ramblers sound like no one so much as themselves—and that’s more than reason enough to make Torch This Town required listening for country fans.

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