Roger Wallace’s first outing was an absolute standout in a competitive field of new-era honky-tonk revival performers, and his second release raises the ante a notch. The time honed in between, pleasing demanding Texas dancehall fans, pays off here in originals and covers that snap to it and never let up.
There are well-chosen classic numbers, including Johnny Horton’s chuggin’ locomotive “First Train Headed South”, Roger Miller’s cry-in-your-beer “Last Word In Lonesome”, and Roy Clark’s rural drama “I Never Picked Cotton”. Those tracks, as well as a tradition-based new entry such as Timmy “Top Cat” Campbell’s shuffle-mode “From The Time I Get Up”, absolutely depend on the chops of a band that can make the rhythms work and the tears roll.
Wallace gets all of that with the return of Jim Stringer on guitar, Brad Fordham on bass, Lisa Pankratz on drums and Marty Muse on steel, plus Eamon McLoughlin on fiddle. As a singer, Wallace builds on his own mastery of weepers, uptempo twangers, and even a bit of rockabilly, his vocals at once smooth and rangy, controlled and touching.
His own songwriting ability comes front-and-center as well. “Almost Good Tonight”, “Square One”, and the updated metaphorical trucker road rumble “Drinking Or Crying” all show a strong hand in applying catchy hooks and contemporary ideas to these hard country modes.
That Wallace is just now getting out on the road with this level of music in tow and listeners are just starting to note his promising early output are the only things rightly standing between his level of acceptance and that of, say, Dwight Yoakam.