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Wink Keziah

Cowbilly – 2014 (Great South)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Wink Keziah

Charlotte, N.C.'s Wink Keziah describes his life as a "cheap C movie script," and the tunes on the fourth release on his own label reflect hard times and hard living. Keziah kicks it off nicely with "When I Get Paid," the tale of a working man trying to survive in a rough economy ("The boss man's gettin' rich but I ain't seen mine") that manages to remain hopeful ("I'll call you back in a couple of days/You'll get yours when I get paid"). On "Faithful Son," Keziah takes a darker approach ("Times were tough and living was hard/So I went into stealin' cars") with a more unfortunate outcome ("So now there's a price upon my head/ For shootin' a man and leavin' him dead/Now they're gonna track me down/And put me six feet under ground").

Keziah is also adept at ballads as with the heartache tunes "Cincinnati" and "Time To Move On," as well as the haunting "Dead Man Walking" about a condemned man on death row. Particularly effective is "The Quiet Kind" in which the singer laments the loss of a loved one ("Always building bridges for my footsteps to find").

Perhaps the strongest tune is the bluesy "Moonshine and Dope" about the evils of alcohol and drugs ("One makes you gag and the other makes you choke") which recalls Hank Williams, Jr. and the Allman Brothers and features Jesse Dayton and Mark Stuart (Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash) sharing vocals with Keziah. Other highlights are the rocking "Life on the Bayou" and the gospel tinged "When the Shadows Come a 'Callin'."

Co-produced by Keziah and guitarist Dale Meyers the instrumentation is stellar, particularly with David Johnson pulling multiple duties on violin, cello, mandolin, pedal steel and banjo. With strong original tunes and gritty performances this is a solid effort throughout.