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Bobby Earl Smith

Rearview Mirror – 2001 (Muleshoe)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by Bobby Earl Smith

Never heard of Bobby Earl Smith? Well, such name performers as Kimmie Rhodes, Johnny Gimble, Marcia Ball, Flaco Jimenez and Jimmy Dale Gilmore have. Serving as background vocalists and studio pickers, they work their collective asses off to make this rootsy country throwback sound good.

Over the last three decades, the Texas-born Smith has played guitar and written songs for Freda and the Firedogs, Kimmie Rhodes and the Jackalope Brothers, Gary P. Nunn, Butch Hancock, Doug Sham and Gilmore.

As evidenced by this solo effort, Smith capably crafts vivid honky-tonk poetry ("Yellow Flowers," "Rearview Mirror," Place In My Heart"), old time country blues ("Colorado River Blues") and rousing gospel ("May The Lord Watch Over You"). However, by contrast to this set's snappy dobro, atmospheric accordion, and taut guitar work, is Smith's sharp-then-flat-whisper-when-you-can't-find-the-high-note-Webb Pierce-meets-Lefty Frizzell vocal style ("I'm Walking The Dog"), which at best is an acquired taste.

When the material is strong ("Muleshoe") and a heavy chorus supplements Smith's vocals ("Cold Wind," "Donde Esta La Cerveza?"), the 11-song disc is quite moving.