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Waxed - Record Review from Issue #32 March-April 2001

Rich Hopkins & Billy Sedlmayr

The Fifty Percenter (Blue Rose)

Rich Hopkins’ name will be familiar to those who have followed the guitarist’s arc with the Sidewinders/Sand Rubies and, most recently, the Luminarios. Billy Sedlmayr is a veteran of several late ’70s/early ’80s Tucson outfits, including Giant Sandworms (later Giant Sand); personal and legal problems occupied him for a long, dry spell.

But the drought is over, and right from the outset the duo hits a gusher. The title track, a Byrds-with-lap-steel yarn about the odds of earning personal redemption (“the distance between a loser and a winner”), finds Sedlmayr singing in voice uncannily like that of early Steve Earle. Americana fans, meet a new, not-so-young talent.

From there, Hopkins and Sedlmayr, joined by an equally talented cast of Phoenix and Tucson players (including the Luminarios), essay a rich, engaging set of folk-and-roots-rock. Highlights include the noirish, cello-driven “En Passant”, reminiscent of Alejandro Escovedo’s numbers with strings; another Earle-styled tune, “Amelia”; and the majestic, Crazy Horse-esque “Careless” and the Latin-flavored folk-blues “Nacodoces”, both reprised from the ’96 Luminarios album El Paso.

The Arthur Lee/Love classic “A Message To Pretty” is as tragic a confessional of blown chances ever penned, and is done here gravely and reverently. With pumice-on-honey-throated Sedlmayr the perfect vocal foil for Hopkins’ fiery/jangly guitars, this album is an instantly memorable, emotionally resonant, remarkably honest gem.

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Originally Featured in Issue #32 March-April 2001

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