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Scott Hammil  10/25/2013          
Two Tons of Steel are a Central Texas tradition, and still one of the best bands out there rocking out the Texas circuit. with all great bands that tear up the road year in and year out changes are bound to come as sure as broken down vans, problems with amplifiers and creative differences. So, it bears saying that this is not the same Two Tons we have loved and followed through the years. The one-two punch that were their last two albums- Vegas and Not That Lucky, doesn't culminate with a trilogy that would have been as classic a three part act as Rubber Soul through Sgt. Pepper, at least as far as Countrybilly is concerned. There is however, promise with the new young guns frontman Kevin Geil has recruited, and the new album is far from bad. The title Unraveled may very well reference the just over a year old meltdown that was last October's Two Tons implosion, but the record feels contrary to a fraying unit. The album is mostly tight, focused and brimming with cowpunk energy. (The rockabilly shades are way dialed down this time.) Geil has always been an accomplished and at times great songwriter, and he delivers more pop gems like the Hollyesque Love Shouldn't Be So Hard, and the blast off opener Really Want You Girl. The Augie Meyers tune Crazy Heart really steals the show, and it's no wonder it's gotten the most airplay, being just a great song that Geil sings his heart out on. Other tunes on the album fall flat, and some are just plain bad. Pool Cue seems a half assed attempt at Outlaw Country, and sounds like it should have been a Waylon B-side on a Finland only release. Album closer Can't Stop Us Now is full on punk, but Geil's voice is just not suited to the hard hitting delivery such a heavy tune requires. The new band members do their best after less than a year in the band and are all great players, though in particular Paul Ward's drumming comes nowhere near the bump and bop of Chris Dodds' imaganitive skin pounding. So, overall the album is good, not great. I, like many long time Two Tons fans was devastated when the news broke that Geil had fired drummer Chris Dodds and founding member Dennis Fallon. While Dodd's subsequent (and quite unnecessary) mega-blog attempted to theorize why the firings happened, only Geil knows what prompted him to dismiss the two. Whatever the reasons are, Fallon is the most missed. New wunderkind Brian Duarte is a fabulous player and not lacking in proficiency. Still, one misses Fallon's hooks and memorable riffs that complimented Geil's originals. What's more, Two Tons without Fallon just doesn't sound like Two Tons, just like U2 would be without the Edge, Dwight Yoakam after Pete Anderson, and hell even The Stones without Keef. One can't help but be mystified when a front man starts believing he IS the band, but here we are. The tension between anyone after 20 years must be something that can become unbearable if you let it, and it's sad that it came to this. The lighter crowds at 2013's Two Ton Tuesday at Gruene Hall certainly showed the effects of losing 3 key members, (though bassist Chris Rhoades left on more amicable terms if his farewell show is any indication. ) So, Unraveled is a good record, and if Fallon and Geil don't reunite in the next few years this is the version of Two Tons we're stuck with for awhile. Here's hoping the highlights of the new record will translate into a more solid affair for Geil and his new band in their next one


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