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The Waybacks

From the Pasture to the Future – 2006 (Compass)

Reviewed by Dave Bagdade

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CDs by The Waybacks

San Francisco's The Waybacks have been a too-well-kept secret for the better part of a decade. In the three years since their last album, "Way Live," The Waybacks have reshuffled their personnel and signed a new label deal.

This is the first studio record since 2002's "Burger After Church." While the long layoff and the jump to a much larger label might be causes for concern, fans will find comfort in some common threads between the news and earlier work.

Chief among these are the twin guitars of James Nash and Stevie Coyle, around whom the group's sound continues to be based. Nash also adds mandolin, bottleneck and baritone guitars. Also present is the group's wacky sense of humor and eclectic choice of covers. Not many bands could borrow from traditional music ("The Blacksmith"), the Kinks ("Motorway") and Chic Corea ("Armando's Rhumba") on the same record without sounding scattered.

The album was recorded while the band was between fiddlers, so fiddle duties are handled by high-profile guests including Darol Anger, Gabe Witcher and Evan Price.

At times, this has more of a rock feel than its predecessors, which is a bit disconcerting, and the megaphone effect in the otherwise excellent "Petrified Man" wears thin quickly. However, there are plenty of standout moments, including the title instrumental, Price's beautiful "Bluebird Waltz" and Nash's evocative "Ninety One." Definitely recommended.