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The Skeeters

Easy For the Takin' – 2004 (Free Bound)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by The Skeeters

The comparisons to Waylon's outlaw prime may irk the Alabama-based Skeeters, but with Bert Newton's eerily Jennings-esque baritone, songs that trot along at a honky-tonk two-step or waltz, and the support of Billy Joe Shaver, the correlation must be a familiar one.

Shaver's "Mother Trucker" provides him a guest opportunity, and a cover of his "After the Fact" (originally waxed by Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge) fills out a tonic for those lamenting Jennings' passing.

Newton's originals offer up the irascibility of the '70s best country songs. The bravado of "I Have Just Begun" clings defiantly to the bad habits of high living, and "Cut Me Down (And Turn Me Loose)" boldly breaks bonds that have outlasted their welcome. The orneriness gives way as the album's title track wallows in life's unattainable women, and "The Road" gives voice to the third-wheel that's destroyed many a performer's relationships.

There's a bluesy, soulful edge to a few tracks (conveying their Muscle Shoals origin), but it's outlaw country that is the band's hallmark. The Skeeters' originality is often obscured by Jennings' shadow, but this is still a powerful collection of songs performed with real ardor. (The Skeeters)