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VA - Local Customs: Lone Star Lowlands

Venerated excavating reissue label the Numero Group rarely do rock (their power-pop sets notwithstanding), so it comes as an even bigger surprise that they would devote a 'numero' (034, to be precise) to demos from an obscure recording studio in Beaumont, Texas, two hours from Houston. 

Known for producing the Winter brothers, Barbara Lynn, and a lot of oil, Beaumont, from the sounds of this collection, had quite a lively and diverse scene. Local bands with their eyes on the big-time demoed material at the Lowland studios during the classic-rock era. Numero, in typical fashion, listened to every single tape in the studio’s archive, and after two years they assembled this impressive set of could-have-beens.

Of course, there's some southern blues-rock here, thanks to bands like Circus and their fitting-to-form cowbell. Most interestingly, though, the best material here avoids clichés. Insight Out are unmistakably country-tinged rock, and “It Makes You Feel So Bad” is a paean to friendship à la The Band’s “The Weight”, while Morning Sun do good takes on CSN (“Where’s Love Gone Today” features hilariously out-of-time cowbell) and Emitt Rhodes bubblegum (“Let’s Take A Walk In The Woods”). Meanwhile, “Dream Away” by Hope could have been in Neil Young’s ear just before penning his “Harvest Moon”. 

And who knew that Texas had a pub rock scene? The Next Exit go all Dr. Feelgood and proto-Television on “Take A Look At Your Friends.” Linda Crowe gives an unexpectedly fast piano-led waltz, channeling Dionne Warwick more than Janis Joplin, on “I Still Remember”, and the delightfully-named Sassy will break your heart with his Bobby Charles-esque “She’s My Daughter.”

On it goes over twenty-two tracks (twenty-eight if you fetch the double vinyl!); Lone Star Lowlands will easily sit among the top rock comps released this year.  

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