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The Souvenirs

King of Heartache – 1999 (Will)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by The Souvenirs

Every once in a while, a band comes along that makes a listening body jerk up and take notice. The Souvenirs are such a band. Evocative of such modern honky tonk titans as Yoakam ("One Less Fool") and original issue Mavericks ("King of Heartache") at one moment, and the border sounds of Marty Robbins ("Anna Marie") the next, the Souvenirs all the while manifest a relaxed confidence and sheer presence that's entirely their own.

All of the songs here (save one Faron Young cover) are originals written by frontman Lucky Lawrence, who brings them to life with vocals that vary from dusty and edgy to soaring and full. The band two-steps into more rockin' territory on a few cuts, most notably the rave-up "Heartbroken Man" that closes the disc, but its feet and heart seem firmly rooted in honky-tonk-witness the mineshaft-deep ache of "So Tired of Missing You," the walking-beat resignation of "Born Just to Be Blue," the hard country of "Hide Away."

The Souvenirs play country music that's tight and spare, shuffling and drenched in pedal steel, and this is one fabulous debut.