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The Salty Dogs

Too Old to Fight – 2014 (Max)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by The Salty Dogs

There's no date listed on the EP to indicate when the latest batch of songs from Arkansas' finest honky tonk country band came out. But have a little faith that this really did come out in 2014 even if it sounds like it belongs to some other era. That may be more a reflection of the music that dominates these days because The Salty Dogs have been making mighty fine country music since 2003 (even if it sounds a lot older than that).

Brad Williams is one excellent lead singer, bearing a vocal resemblance to Ronnie Dunn. The hiccup in Williams' voice is evident on the lone cover among the six songs, "Nine Pound Hammer" by Merle Travis. In "Take Me Back Home," a song about being on the road but wanting to head home to the wife and kid, the listener is left thinking that the mournful sounding Williams really does miss domesticity.

There are not a lot of wasted words in the songs written by Williams. "Heart Covered in Rust" repeats the chorus three times about a couple who apparently are not right for each other, but still age together. That's not the case on the closing "King of Broken Hearts" where Williams sings, "We had a house on the hill with a white picket_fence/It's_a_story book story with no storybook end."

The Salty Dogs smartly self-produced, meshing together the vocals and instruments. Ace bluegrass ace fiddle player Tim Crouch guests on "Sometimes, Sometimes" and "Nine Pound Hammer." Caitlin Cary adds backing vocals on the former, forging a different sound. Banjo (Brent LeBeau of the Dogs, who also anchors the rhythm section with drummer Bart Angel), piano ("Heart Covered in Rust") and twangy electric guitar from Nick Devlin, one fourth of the Dogs, all fill out the spaces in the music.

Maybe The Salty Dogs left off the date on purpose because when the music is this good, it's timeless.