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Joe Bonson & Coffee Run

Love Train – 2005 (Arch Tech)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Joe Bonson & Coffee Run

Joe Bonson and his band Coffee Run play a brand of country music that recalls nothing so much as the hybrid of bluegrass and country that Ricky Skaggs plied with so much success in the early '80s. That means there's lots of fiddle and steel, but also plenty of Dobro and mandolin, all wedded to Bonson's fine, weathered-at-the-edges voice,to classic harmonies and to a deep honky-tonk sound.

Bonson and company apply it to a clutch of country standards and other material, and throw a couple of original tunes into the mix. One of Skaggs' big hits, "I Wouldn't Change You If I Could," gets a fine reading, as does Haggard's "Mama Tried," Hank's "Hey, Good Lookin'," and Buck's "I Wouldn't Change You If I Could."

But the high points are a couple of gems, both reflecting Bonson's faith: "Jesus and Bartenders" (a Larry Cordle song) finds a surprising similarity between those twosubjects, while "More Than Just a Man" is a straightforward testament delivered in bluegrass garb. This is bedrock country music that deserves to be heard.