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Michael and the Lonesome Playboys

Bottle Cap Sky – 2013 (Blackwater)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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The Los Angeles-based Michael and the Lonesome Playboys "Bottle Cap Sky" is a mix of country and blues with mixed results. Frontman Michael Ubaldini supplies solid lead guitar licks and many strong compositions, although his lead vocals at times fall a bit flat.

Ubaldini clearly reveres classic country music as reflected in some solid honky-tonk tracks such as Moondog Mad and Rosewood Night, which have a Hank Williams feel to them, as well as the Johnny Cash flavored The Outlaw Kind. Two Wrongs Like Us (Don't Make a Right) and the ballad Heart Full Of Tears are among the strongest country tracks.

Ubaldini displays his affinity for the blues on Someone Should Put You On Trial and Steel Train, which also feature him on harmonica and some of his most effective vocals.

Other highlights are Another Side With Every Story, which tells of being "Tangled up in drama trying to control everyone/Destroy a person's life and sleep like babies when they're done," and the witty J.W. Price the Texas Oil Man about how wealth can corrupt ("As a young man he struck oil/It gushed out of the soil/He worked and now he owns most of the land/Politicians in the palm of his hand").

Ubaldini (who wrote all 15 tracks and also produced) is well supported throughout by band mates Rob King (bass), Gary Brandin (steel/Dobro), Jeremy Long (piano) and Candy Girard (fiddle). In the liner notes, Ubaldini proclaims that all music and vocals were recorded "live to analog tape with minimal overdub" and "no auto-tune or fake instruments." While this approach is largely effective, perhaps some additional minimal vocal overdubs could have helped smooth some of the rough edges.