Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams

Midnight Rodeo (Self-released)

The Hi-Beams' take on twang is decidedly retro. Halden Wofford has that high-and-lonesome vocal sound down cold, and instrumentalists such as dobroist/pedal-steel expert Bret Billings and upright-bassist Ben O'Connor swing in ways that modern Nashvillians eschewed long ago. Fortunately, though, the combo's latest disc is anything but musty. Country music doesn't get much livelier. Some of the tunes here tilt toward novelty, including "Betty Boop," which also name-checks Shirley Temple. But the willfully silly "Cajun Fair," about a woman in a "neon sweater" and "alligator underwear," rollicks right over gripes about superficiality, as do aural gags à la "Hippie in My House." Even better are comparatively substantive tunes like "Blues Fallin' Down," replete with several thoroughly charming guitar breaks, and "Don't Care If I Do," a cheerful lament featuring such bons mots as "Your name fits 'round my neck just like a noose." Yes, Midnight Rodeo is a throwback. But the pleasure it provides is as current as today.

 
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