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8 Ball Aitken

8 Ball Aitken – 2016 (indieExtreme/Red Rocker Records)

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

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CDs by 8 Ball Aitken

It's a neat trick to have your debut record be a greatest hits, but Australia's 8-Ball Aitken aims to be different. He's got wild red hair out of a bottle and plays just as mean a cigar-box guitar as a standard slide. Check out his videos online, and you'll meet an army of sidemen and women with personality to spare. Tattooed gals, decked in vintage pinup garb, mesh well with the guy in the occasional chicken suit.

These songs have been making the rounds for years, but are collected here on a U.S. debut release. Aitken's cherrypicked what he thinks are his best. But his fans might have made some different choices (the omission of "Chocolate, Jack Daniels, and LSD" is criminal). When you hear the titles and the opening riffs, you'll think this is some hybrid of Steve Miller and Weird Al you never knew you needed. Aitken has a sly sense of humor, for sure. But he typically saves the goofiest line for the title (for Exhibit A, see "Outback Booty Call"). "She's Going to Mexico, I'm Going to Jail" sure sounds like it'll be a hoot, too. But the story's not far from what other current country boys are singing. We get a guy in over his head for the wrong girl, and this one happens to rob a bank. The tune was apparently a big hit in Australia, where ZZ Top and the Georgia Satellites must still be in heavy rotation.

Not everything is played for laughs. "Girl In a Million" and "Underneath the Stars" are straight-arrow love songs. The best, and most efficient, on the record is "Shut the Front Door." It really delivers guitar fuzz fun concerning the tiptoe home from a bender - all in just under three minutes.

The biggest sin here is no matter how much seasoning these songs get with organ, fiddle or kazoo, they all sound like each other or somebody you know. "Yellow Moon" may as well have the Canned Heat classic "On the Road Again" playing in the background (But to be fair, even that was a cover song of two predecessors). When you fish in these waters, the objective is much more about fun than reinventing anything. And, really, in these trying times, we need a guy in a chicken suit more than ever.