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Keith Gattis

Big City Blues – 2003 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Keith Gattis

We last heard from Keith Gattis on his mid-'90s major label debut, which sported a head-shot cover of a clean-cut young country artist and contained edgy, traditional honky-tonk that grabbed critics' ears, but made little impression in the marketplace.

Some seven years later, the cover shot of his self-released follow-up shows a rough-and-ready looking Gattis reclining on a bench. The two covers are a pretty good indicator of the change in Gattis' circumstances and his music. He's no longer in Nashville, but part of a thriving country music scene in Los Angeles, as well as serving as guitar slinger and multi-instrumentalist in Dwight Yoakam's current, stripped-down backing band. His latest is scuffed-up and moody and tips away from honky-tonk towards rootsy country rock (the sweet, palpable mix of regret and hope on "Reconsider," the perfect blend of pedal steel and organ tremolo on his filled-out rendition of Waylon Payne's "The Bottom," the rocking "Hard On Me") and, especially, blues (acoustic on "Down Again," electrified on "Wish I Had You," and smoldering and B3-fuelled on "Don't Lie").

What remains unchanged are Gattis' threefold strengths: his instrumentalprowess, his syrupy-thick, wisp of a lisp singing and his songwriting talents.