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Rob McNurlin

Cowboy Boot Heel – 2000 (Buffalo Skinner)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Rob McNurlin

Rob McNurlin is a singer-songwriter out of Kentucky whose music reflects in equal measure the influence of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. The link to Cash and Guthrie are most directly in evidence. The album was recorded at Johnny Cash's cabin studio, and McNurlin's co-producer is Cash's son John Carter Cash, and he is joined by Guthrie protege Ramblin' Jack Elliot on "I Dreamed I Saw Woody Guthrie."

"Bootleg Medicine" is a Luke the Drifter type recitation, while "Hard At Best" and the title track display the lonesome sound of Williams' hillbilly blues. Dylan's influence is most evident on "Blood On The Saddle" and the untitled, uncredited closing track a 14-minute stream of consiousness talking blues. Though mostly acoustic, McNurlin is joined by his band the Beatnik Cowboys (Dave Prince on electric guitar and Bo McCarty on upright bass) on some tracks. "Powder and Lead" and "The Road Rules" are reminiscent of Waylon Jennings, while "White Line" features a Pete Anderson style guitar solo.

With elements of country, folk and blues McNurlin's music may defy categorization but listeners will appreciate his brilliant lyrics and soulful vocals. (Buffalo Skinner Productions, 606-325-7178)