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Chris Richards
Tumblers And Grit
Lake Effect Records

Ok, folks… Here's the rundown. Here's how you make a great country music record in this day and age. First, and most importantly, you recruit Kenny Vaughan to play guitar. Ask anyone who knows guitar, and they'll tell you he's one of the best Nashville has to offer. Hell, ask Marty Stuart- and he's no slouch on that telecaster himself. Then you get a killer steel player, like for instance, Lloyd Green. Then you write some catchy songs that run the gamut from honky tonk to downbeat ballads (but leave out the schmaltzy cross-platform "country" that all the FM stations play), make plenty of room for Kenny's twanging tele leads, and go, cat go!

That's just what Chris Richards has done on Tumblers And Grit. He's assembled a brilliant cast of players, written some downright amazing songs, and delivered them all in a rich, smooth, silky baritone voice that ranks among one of the finest ever recorded in Nashville. Think the best and deepest Conway Twitty moments with a dash of George Jones thrown in, but without the gravel. Well, anyway, with just one listen, you'll get the idea. And, of course, Kenny Vaughan and Lloyd Green working their amazing guit-fiddle magic just complete the package. From the opening strains of "To Sing The Blues", Richards displays his songwriting prowess in high style with smooth delivery and lyrics like: " Do you remember when our love was new?/ Brown-eyed and broken and just out of school/ And I was a singer just paying my dues/ You made me play you those happy songs/ Where love's unending and nothing goes wrong/ And those were the only kind that I knew/ Till you taught me how to sing the blues". That's some heavy lyric to begin an album, and it doesn't slow down from there. "Hard Livin'" features some of the finest twangy guitar since Hillbilly Rock, rich with tone, as well as some amazing honky tonk piano and weeping steel. Bringing the spirit of John Cash back around, "Bells Of Odilia" showcases the soul of the songwriter, with its dark country flavors and softly tremeloed guitar work.

While I'm mentioning twangy guitars, let me draw your attention to songs like "Jam The Breeze" with its crisp acoustic guitars and delicately placed twang, and "Nashville Gas" which is far from delicate… It's a song that would be right at home next to any of the country greats, and would slide real nicely next to Dale Watson's "Nashville Rash" on any mix tape of real country songs. "Crazy Too" once more showcases the darker, more Hank Williams side of Richards' songwriting. "Honky Tonk Graveyard" is a more upbeat, lighthearted song, full of innuendo and joy, and "The Ballad Of The Analog Kid" wraps up the album nicely with its very Marty Stuart attitude and message. A bit of the classic feel to make it all come round.

The fact of the matter is that Tumblers And Grit is one of the finest country albums to be made since the 1960's golden age of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos And Merle, Johnny, and Willie. And it is a REAL country album. And no one seems to have the guts to make one of those very often anymore (Marty Stuart being the exception). An amazing cast of musicians backing an amazing collection of songs, sung soulfully by an amazing voice makes for a pretty amazing record. You've got my word on it.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:

1. To Sing The Blues
2. Hard Livin'
3. Bells Of Odilia
4. Jam The Breeze
5. Crazy Too
6. Hang On To The Moon
7. Nashville Gas
8. Hearts Like These
9. One Foot
10. Honky Tonk Graveyard
11. The Ballad Of The Analog Kid

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