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Jeff Hughes

Chaparral – 1997 (Boar's Nest)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by Jeff Hughes

Chaparral and bandleader Jeff Hughes were one of Austin's alternative country trailblazers in the early Nineties, but this fantastic album is their first. The record dances the line between hard country and guitar rock better than any disc since Bob Woodruff's debut, and Hughes' uptempo songs, like "Choose Only Love," "All My Life," and "The Loneliest Tears" are just the kick in the butt country radio needs.

His songwriting, too, much like Woodruff's best, is full of the simplicity and honesty so lacking in mainstream country. The characters are the familiar, lovable downtrodden - men who have fallen out of love, men who hear the call of the open road or the whistle of the train - and Hughes makes their stories more poignant with lines like the opening of "Bus Stop": "As I take the wet dollars from my pocket/Do I have enough to ride/'Sorry, Mister, didn't mean to waste your time.'"

Every so often, a band makes you remember why you fell in love with country music. Chaparral is one of those bands. (Boar's Nest, POB 4635, Austin, TX 78765)