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Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters

Billy Bob Thornton and The Boxmasters – 2008 (Sawmill/Vanguard)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters

The liner notes for Billy Bob Thornton's latest project aptly describe the Boxmasters vintage sound as a mix of The Beatles, The Monkees, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.

The first of the two-disc set is subtitled "Ours" to indicate it contains original material. The opening track The Poor House reveals a strong Owens influence with Thornton as Buck and bassist J.D. Andrew providing Don Rich style harmonies. I'm Watching the Game has a '60s retro sound, but it's hard to imagine Buck or Merle singing lyrics such as "Stop telling me stuff/ Quit asking me shit" and "You know how I hate those fucking Cubs" as Thornton deals with female distraction while watching his beloved Cardinals on the tube. Other highlights are the cheating songs The Work Of Art and The Girl On The Side, which alternately portray Thornton and the victim and the cheater.

The second disc is an interesting collection of covers. Some natural choices are a pair of Michael Nesmith tunes Some Of Shelley's Blues and Propinquity and an effective version of Kenny Loggins' House At Pooh Corner. More traditional country is represented by Mel Tillis' Sawmill, Charlie Louvin's Knoxville Girl and Ernest Tubb's She's Looking Better By The Minute. There are also countrified versions of The Beatles' I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Chad and Jeremy's Yesterday's Gone and The Who's The Kids Are Alright. With solid performances and well chosen tunes this is Billy Bob Thornton's best musical project to date.