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Mary Cutrufello

Who to Love and When to Leave – 1996 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by Mary Cutrufello

Mary Cutrufello has been burning up Texas honky tonks and dancehalls with her outstanding songs, fiery electric guitar, and gritty singing for years now, but outside the Lone Star state, she's virtually unknown. And since she and her two band members recorded this debut album live in an Austin studio mainly just to have music to sell at shows, it probably won't expand her audience much.

Cutrufello, who wrote all 13 songs, displays a penchant for old-time songs about cheating and one-night stands like "Johnson Motel," "Walk of Shame," and "Sweet Promise of Love" ("A promise can't be broken/If it's only for one night"). She's a road warrior in songs like "Sad Songs and Waltzes Revisited" although she laments that love is tying her down in "Love's to Blame," written with Steve Earle.

As good as this album is, one has to see Cutrufello perform live to fully appreciate her boundless energy and magnetism and the sheer joy she takes in her music. Outside Texas, though, this is the next best thing.