CD and Book Reviews

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Running on equal parts inspiration and gumption, Austin’s Damnations are the alternative to alternative country, going way back for tunes like “Copper Kettle,” forward for a romp through Lucinda Williams’ “Happy Woman Blues,” and their own way with impressively traditional-progressive originals. The mostly acoustic Live Set (Damnations), pressed in a limited edition for sale off the bandstand, is lean, clean, and to the point—and more infectious than most of the other twang bands’ efforts combined. … Beaumont’s Mark Chestnutt is as down-home as Nashville gets nowadays, and Thank God for Believers (Decca) may be his most fully realized effort yet. His heart has always been in the right place, but he’s had to grow into the vocal credibility to pull off songs like “Hello Honky Tonk.” Such sentiments return country to areas shunned by the current upwardly mobile generation of singers, as does Chestnutt’s willingness to put the pedal steel guitar front and center. Combine that with the radio-friendly production Nashville requires, and you’ve got

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