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Bear and the Essentials

Two Time Fool – 2005 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Bear and the Essentials

"Essentials" is a perfectly apt name for this band, led bythe Austin musician who simply goes by the moniker "Bear." The music is vintage honky tonk and hillbilly, stripped down to their basic elements, with zero ornamentation: thick guitar twang, occasional touches of straight steel, the singer's sweet, drawly croon (on its own, no harmonies), all backed by the simple, insistent rhythm of a doghouse bass without benefit of drums.

The disc features five of the singer's old-school originals, ranging from the Hank Williams vibe of "A Heartache to Follow" to the hopping "Two Time Fool." He adds covers from musical heroes, including a Tennessee Two-channeling take on an Cash-via-Jack Clements tune, "Just About Time," and couple of Johnny Horton numbers, on whose "Honky Tonk Mind" the band stakes out a leisurely pace before kicking things up with a nice guitar takeoff. At just over 24 minutes, the length is a little slight, but what's here is a solid if unspectacular first effort.