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Eleven Hundred Springs

Eight the Hard Way – 2011 (Smith)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Eleven Hundred Springs

As one of their song titles suggests there is a lot of hardcore honkytonk on the latest release from Eleven Hundred Springs, with touches of the Bakersfield sound mixed with an alt.-country edge.

The Bakersfield influence is most evident on the opening track This Ain't The First Time, a tale of lost love that alludes to a country classic ("We all know how the story ends/D-I-V-O-R-C-E"), and No Place Else To Go on which guitarist and songwriter Matt Hillyer's vocals are reminiscent of Robbie Fulks.

The tongue in cheek We're From Texas ("Say you don't like us/Just don't get near/'Cause we'll still your girlfriend/Kick your ass and steal your beer") recalls the Austin Lounge Lizards Stupid Texas Song. Songwriter Hillyer's sense of humor also shines in Hardcore Honkytonk, which sings the praises of such country legends as Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn while mocking the current country music scene with references to "pop country balladeers" and "sappy ballads."

Elsewhere the sentimenal ballad Nobody Love You Like Me verges on sappiness, but retains its charm as it reflects on the bond between a father and daughter ("Just look in my eyes and you'll see/ Daddy, nobody loves you like me"). Another effective ballad is For Better Or Worse in which the singer acknowledges conflict ("We fought with the world/Then we fought with ourselves/We fought with each other 'till nobody wins"), but maintains a positive outlook ("But when the fighting is through/ And we look at our family/Our cup's running over as each day begins").

With strong compositions from Hillyer and solid musicianship from band mates Steve Berg (bass), Arjuna Contreras (drums), Jordan Hendrix (fiddle) and Burton Lee (steel guitar and Dobro), Eleven Hundred Springs entertains.