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Brent Best

Your Dog, Champ – 2015 (Last Chance)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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Way back in the hallowed '90s, Slobberbone roared out of Denton, Texas with the visceral head kick of The Replacements and the boozy wisdom of Hank Williams. The band unleashed a quartet of brilliant albums (1994's "Crow Pot Pie," 1997's "Barrel Chested," 2000's "Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today," 2002's "Slippage") that were rightly lionized for their gritty take on alternative country/roots rock and for front man/songwriter Brent Best's keen literary eye for detail and evocative narrative sense.

Although Slobberbone embarked on a farewell tour in 2005, the band remains together in some fashion, but the gaps between appearances have allowed Best to explore the songwriting possibilities beyond his band role. "Your Dog, Champ," Best's solo debut, has been a long time coming and, in fact, clawed its way into existence; he shelved his first attempt years ago for being too much like Slobberbone, and his second, personally satisfying effort disappeared with a failed hard drive.

"Your Dog, Champ" stands as Best's measured response to both setbacks, a work that channels the howling electrical storm summoned up by his band (the harrowing "Good Man Now," the insistent and spine-tingling "Travel, Again," the epic and troubled "Tangled") while simultaneously spinning cinematic yarns that flicker in the mind like a film projected on a screen of drifting smoke (the wistful "Aunt Ramona," the melancholy childhood reverie of "Robert Cole").

Best offers a mutated gene splice of the jaundiced romanticism and electric snarl of Paul Westerberg, the quiet lyrical elegance of John Prine and the melodic lilt of Lyle Lovett, and takes his rightful place among the pantheon of music's most inspired and inspiring songwriters.