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Starline Rhythm Boys thankfully end the wait

The Plough & Stars, Cambridge, Mass., November 1, 2008

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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The Starline Rhythm Boys may be the Vermont version of some of Texas' finest singers like Aaron Watson and Sunny Sweeney. In other words, they are able to eke out a living by doing concerts in their home state and rarely seem to feel a need to leave the confines of home.

So it was with anticipation that the Starline Rhythm Boys finally left the Green Mountain State for their first gig in Boston in about six years. It would be hard to say that the wait was worth it because making fans wait that long is asking quite a lot, but let's put it this way, for folks who don't care how long it's been, SRB more than made up for the time gap.

The Boys, a trio consisting of Danny Coane on acoustic guitar and vocals, Big Al Lemery on lead guitar and vocals and Billy Bratcher on upright slap bass, scored repeatedly throughout their first set, 80 minutes of originals and covers.

This is a tight knit unit, but forget about any ideas that it's a case of playing song x for the umpteenth time. Coane handles most of the lead vocals with good effect. But Lemery and Bratcher also proved they were fully capable of taking over the vocals. Lemery turned in a nice reading of Waylon Jennings' Lonesome On'ry & Mean. Lemery is particularly good, but on vocals as in their musicianship, there is rarely any sense of showboating or playing and singing to excess. Their take on Warren Smith's rockabilly classic, Ubangi Stomp, was lively with guitar and bass plus very fast vocals.

Lemery is a standout guitarist whether on rockabilly tunes or giving a lot of twang or delving into honky tonk. He is so understated in his musical approach - he could easily play with a lot more flair, but the guy, like the band, about the music and it comes through clearly. And to their credit, the Boys sing and play all three types of music quite well.

What separates the Starline Rhythm Boys from merely being a very good bar band is that they also have a lot of their own material, which stands up to their covers. Highlights included Drunk Tank and 3:00 a.m. on the Kansas Plains.

The Starline Rhythm Boys do about 120 dates or more a year in Vermont, which is incredible given the size of the state. They seem to be satisfied dong that, but with some push from their label, Cow Island Music, the Boys may be busting out a bit more often. Let's hope so because going another six years without hearing top-notch country music from the Starline Rhythm Boys would be a real shame.