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The Railbenders

Showdown (Stag Records)

Buddy, let me tell you what: These here Railbenders are the real McCoy. For my money, these urban cowboys play some of the most authentic honky-tonk this side of Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys. And Showdown, their third full-length and first for the Texas-based Stag imprint, is by far their best and most cohesive. As with past albums, singer/guitarist Jim Dalton's sleek baritone -- which conjures the spirits of Waylon and Willie as convincingly as Hobart's does Buck Owens -- remains the undeniable draw. His deliberate phrasing and easygoing delivery exude a casual confidence that's instantly endearing. Add to that a slew of great songs -- "Driving Back to Denver," "Last Ride of the Dalton Gang," "I-70 Westbound," a fine take on the Hillbilly Hellcats' "Drinking Buddies" -- infused with the group's trademark twang, some foot-stompin' guitar lines, steamroller harp and tearful pedal-steel playing, and what you've got is a runaway train on your hands. All aboard.

 
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