Prairie Oyster

Blue Plate Special – 1997 (Velvel)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

CDs by Prairie Oyster

Canadian group Prairie Oyster have won five Junos (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy) as Country Group of the Year in their 20-odd years of existence. So why haven't most Americans heard of them? Who knows? Maybe they're just too good for American country radio. If that's their problem, though, this album won't help.

From the fiddle-and-steel country shuffles, "She Won't Be Lonely Long" and "If My Broken Heart Would Ever Mend," to the haunting ballad of resisting temptation, "The Water's Deep," to a leaving song that just crackles with energy, "Long Gone Daddy," the band displays a unique knack for writing, singing and picking great traditional country music.

But just when you think they're nothing more than an awesome traditional country band (something we certainly could use more of), they throw you for a loop with the R&B flavor of "Unbelievable Love," Jo-El Sonnier's accordion on "Tonight There's a Blue Moon," and the surprisingconclusion to the revved-up barn-burner, "One Way Track." If radio stations avoid great country music, then they'll never play Prairie Oyster.