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Various Artists

Texas Outlaws – 2003 (Compadré)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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Compadre's latest release collects a wide range of old and new Texas musicians. Though not as revolutionary as Waylon and Willie's initial Nashville exodus, these singer-songwriters definitely defend the same decidely non-Nashville ground. The performers include Texas roadhouse stalwarts like Pat Green, Cory Morrow and Kevin Fowler, mavericks like Jack Ingram, and legendary Lone Star talents Ray Wylie Hubbard, Townes Van Zandt and Willie Nelson.

It's a tad ironic that an album full of such talented songwriters would record mostly covers, and even more surprising how well some of the most iconic songs work. Roger Creager's "Guitar Town" shows the song to have a triumphant life apart from Steve Earle, and Max Stalling, backed by superb (and sadly uncredited!) Mexicali guitar, breathes life (and, ultimately, death, of course) into "El Paso." Owen Temple and Reckless Kelly serve up fine acoustic performances, with Temple's "Lost Highway" wallowing in a wasted life and Reckless Kelly's "Rodeo Man" gleaming with untamed optimism. Billy Joe Shaver and Townes Van Zandt sing live takes of signature compositions, and road warrior Dale Watson adds his stage staple, "In the Jailhouse Now." Jack Ingram has the swagger to take on "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line," but the result sounds more like a jam than a finished track. Willie Nelson's collaboration with rapper Lil' Black is an interesting experiment, but aurally out of context here.

Half of these tracks, including several of the disc's best, are previously unreleased, resulting in a set that works both as a Texas sampler, and a thematic compilation.