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Karl Shiflett & Big Country Show

Take Me Back – 2012 (Pinecastle)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Karl Shiflett & Big Country Show

There are artists who play in a retro style because they think it sounds cool or they're paying tribute to the past glories of their chosen genre, and then there are those such as Karl Shiflett, who sounds as if he was dropped into our century from a barn dance radio show circa 1946. The modern recording techniques and lack of tape hiss give away these tracks as contemporary creations, but don't tell Shiflett as he's apparently happy to continue indefinitely in his arrested stylistic developmental phase.

Given that proclivity towards classic sounds the title of this collection is especially apropos, and Shiflett's take on the classic Bob Wills number of the same name gives the proceedings a spirited start. Shiflett and band are equally capable of hot-footing it with instrumentals such as Hot Foot as they are with a more country song such as the barroom lament Song on the Jukebox.

The traditional bluegrass juxtaposition of 'Saturday sinner, Sunday saint' is touched upon by the inclusion of bawdy cuts such as I Gotta Get Drunk versus Open up Your Heart (And Let Jesus In), proving that this group can pull off both extremes easily. Barring any more historical recordings being unearthed of unsung early country and bluegrass acts, this new batch of instant classics from Karl Shiflett & Big Company ought to satisfy even the most demanding traditionalist's needs.