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The Merles

Hate to Say Goodbye – 2017 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by The Merles

The Merles' debut is an authentic mix of classic country, western swing and rockabilly. Frontman Todd Deatherage wrote or co-wrote all 14 tracks on the Austin-band's effort with good results. The honky tonk tune "Six Pack of Heartache" seems to allude to a pair of country classics as the title recalls Hank Thompson's "Six Pack to Go" while the line "the memories start falling so I pop another top" gives a nod to Jim Ed Brown's "Pop A Top."

The curse of alcohol is predictably a recurring theme. In the impressive rockabilly track "What The Hell I Did Last Night," Deatherage details the morning after a binge ("'Cause I woke up this morning didn't know where I was/Oh, it must have been some kind of hell of a buzz"), while the tongue in cheek "Alcohol and Issues" finds the singer both defending over indulgence ("I'm a much better man/With a drink in my hand/Alcohol and I have issues") and acknowledging the consequences ("Hell, I don't give a damn/I'll drink 'till I can't stand").

The rockabilly influence is also on display in the bluesy "V8 Sound" and "If The Walls Could Talk." Deatherage displays his affinity for western swing with "Texas In July" and "How Love Goes." Two of the stronger ballads are the title track and "Tables and Chairs," which deal with life on the road for a musician.

Though Deatherage's vocal range is limited, he is nicely backed throughout by band mates Derek Tarnow (guitar), Max Winegardner (drums), Phil Spencer (bass) and Loren Tarnow (harmony vocals), with guest appearances from Eddie Dickerson (fiddle), Basil McJagger (keyboards), Michael St. Clair (horns) and particularly Geoff Queen (steel guitar). With pleasant tunes and strong performances "Hate To Say Goodbye" impresses.