Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
hen one of the lead singers of a band leaves the fold, the overriding question is whether the group can carry on.
Such is the case with The Derailers, the Austin band combining their brand of honky tonk with Buck Owens, touches of Western swing, psychedelic sounds, The Beatles and Roy Orbison mixed in.
Former lead singer and co-founder Tony Villanueva left about two years ago leaving Brian Hofeldt at the helm of the band, which released a few discs on Sony's Lucky Dog label with not much to show for it.
The Derailers circa 2005 may not be quite the same without Villanueva, who possesses a great voice, but neither are they without a future.
The Derailers played material from throughout their career, dating back to their "Jackpot" disc of 1995 to new songs on an album they hope to release later this year.
They started off with a smart instrumental with a touch of Owens thrown into the sound, soon offering a good version of Charlie Rich's "Mohair Sam," song from "Here Comes The Derailers" with its '60s psychedelic feel. However, Hofeldt's vocals should have been mixed higher so they stood out more.
The new material sounded strong, including the slower "You're Looking at the Man" and "One More Time." Hofeldt may have been at his best on "I'm Still Missing You," part of a forthcoming Palo Duro Records compilation of Texas artists. Drummer Scott Matthews was steady handed here as he was throughout the entire set.
In fact, the remaining three band members - pedal steel man Chris Schlotzhauer, keyboardist Sweet Basil McJagger and bassist Ed Atkins all played their roles well.
The Derailers mixed in a few covers. Now "Tiger by the Tail" is right up their alley given the Owens connection - he even sang backing vocals on one of their recordings, "Play Me the Waltz of the Angels," on which they turned in a fine performance in concert.
But they didn't need to do "Great Balls of Fire," even though it was a good version. They have enough of their own strong songs that they did not need to rely on a classic to connect with the crowd.
The very polite Hofeldt may not be the vocal presence that Villanueva was. And neither possessed the greatest charisma, instead relying on the quality of the music.
It will be interesting to see where The Derailers go from here.
With a bit more sizzle, they could even make audiences forget who they used to be and latch on to what they are now.