Jerry Jeff's ‘Stew' stirs it up

from Wichita Falls Times-Record News on

It's still too early for the big-league mainstream country releases to start showing up, so here are a few quirky new CDs. Most country fans should find something to like about them.

"Gonzo Stew" by Jerry Jeff Walker

If there weren't a Jerry Jeff Walker, there wouldn't be a Pat Green, Wade Bowen, Cory Morrow or Kevin Fowler. Austin-based singer/songwriters like Jerry Jeff, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Michael Martin Murphey, T. Gosney Thornton, Guy Clark, and so on, are the direct ancestors of the Texas contingent of the Red Dirt movement, and it's good to see that they're still hanging in there.

"Gonzo Stew," Walker's new CD, shows that the de facto godfather of Texas music is still alive and kicking, hard, with all his original roughed-edged genius intact.

Right from set-opener "It Don't Matter," through the tender balladry of "Candles and Cut Flowers" and up to the raucous cover of Roger Miller's "Dang Me," and closing with the comfortable radio groove of "Down the Road," "Gonzo Stew" is a welcome breath of gravel-voiced fresh air among the unrelenting artistic staleness that so much of country music has become.

While there are no bound-for-legend songs like Walker's "Mr. Bojangles" in the set, there's plenty of the Texas-flavored fun and rowdy good times that made his name a household word among homegrown music fans in the Lone Star State.Next rating: A-

"Guitar Man" by Dan Peek

Dan Peek, the multi-instrumental singer and writer of "Lonely People" with '70s folk/rock group America, left the rock world to become a major early figure in the contemporary Christian field. Now Peek is back singing to his original rock fans with a new CD, "Guitar Man."

It's entertaining, especially the opening title track, but don't expect to hear the trademark America sound. While there are many spots sprinkled through the set that take us back to the mid-1970s, when America was one of the most successful bands in the world, this is Dan Peek doing what he enjoys when he's not playing to his long-established contemporary Christian audience.

It's more mature, more wide-ranging and more textured than anything America ever recorded, and it definitely belongs in the collections of the old fans.NEXT rating: B

"The Grascals And Friends" by The Grascals

When a record label owned by a major restaurant chain offers the best country music there is anywhere, you know something has gone seriously wrong in Nashville. But that's the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store commitment to genuine country music for you.

"The Grascals and Friends" is the newest country must-have in the label's catalog.

Featuring The Grascals, perhaps the top contemporary bluegrass band in the business right now, "The Grascals and Friends" brings Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Charlie Daniels, Hank Williams Jr., the Oak Ridge Boys,

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