The second release from Austin's Blue Diamond Shine has a strong traditional country sound with an alt.-country edge.
Though frontman John Stark's vocals at times fall a bit flat, there is an effective touch of Gram Parsons pathos to his voice, and his lyrics are compelling.
In "Strong Wine and Strong Women," Stark begins with what appears to be a typical honky-tonk song about a cheating man on the prowl, but the song ends with an unconsciuous, drunken deacon being unceremoniously dumped in his front yard by a female acquaintance. Stark trods even darker ground with "The Murder of the Blue-Eyed Man From Galveston Bay," a haunting tale of an interracial affair that ends in murder and suicide. The musianship is impressive, particularly the classic steel guitar sounds of Larry Tracy. Lead guitarist Eric Hisaw contributes several nice solos, and the rhythm section of Mark O'Boyle and John Sirman is solid.
With touches of Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Tom Russell, Blue Diamond Shine offers an excellent collection. (Entwine, Box 1377, Austin, TX 78767)