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The Starline Rhythm Boys

Masquerade for Heartache – 2009 (Cow Island Music)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by The Starline Rhythm Boys

On their second live album emanating from Charlie-O's World Famous nightclub in Vermont, the Starline Rhythm Boys lay down yet another engaging set of infectious honky tonk and rockabilly floor stompers. Produced by Sean Mencher, the 10-song performance captures the booze-soaked ambience of reverberating hardwood floors, freshly tapped kegs and bass-slappin' bacchanalia.

Seething with jive, rhythm guitarist/vocalist Danny Coane, lead guitarist Al Lemery and stand-up bassman Billy Bratcher augment their on-stage sound with Kevin Maul's jumping pedal steel. Although the collection features three fine Bratcher originals (Masquerade for Heartache, Red's Place, I'm Fed Up Drinking Here), SRB proves themselves top-notch interpreters of classic tunes from a bygone era.

Indeed, their rendition of Merle Haggard's Working Man Blues sounds more like a truck-driver anthem than the hammer-ringing original. Carl Perkin's Jive After Five and Honky Tonk Gal play out like rawboned backwoods twang. And, best of all, Warren Smith's Ubangi Stomp is redrafted into a speedy Billy Lee Riley & His Little Green Men-era rocker.

Non-fans will probably long for more stylistic depth and polished lead vocals. That said, the Starline Rhythm Boys have achieved something on these live discs that occasionally eluded them on their studio outings: They sound completely connected to their intended audience. The result? An engaging party disc that feels like its over much too soon.