Review: “The Last Country Album,” Heybale!

It’s no secret that Austin, Texas, is a town full of veteran pickers and players.  One of the best things you can do, for example, is visit the Continental Club for a Sunday evening performance by Heybale!, the pure country unit headed by guitarist Redd Volkaert and pianist Earl Poole Ball.  The Last Country Album is Heybale’s (let’s just drop the exclamation point from here on) first studio effort, and it’s mighty fine for a Saturday – or any other – night.  The first thing that hits you here is these musicians certainly know their way around a country song: Ball is the honky tonk piano player who worked with Johnny Cash and Buck Owens, as well as the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers.  Volkaert played for years behind Merle Haggard in the Strangers; vocalist Gary Claxton is a mere pup by contrast but his whiskey-soaked voice is perfect in this company. 

Many of the songs are originals, the highlights include Ball’s “Honky Tonk Mood,” which will certainly put you in one, “Everything … About Drinking,” and the instrumental “Heybalin’.”  Redd croaks the lead vocal on “Step Aside” in his unique singing voice.  And “Let’s Go To Mexico” puts you in a cantina on the Texas-Mexico border.  If you are a fan of real country music, I can’t recommend this album enough.  Just about as far removed from current Nashville country product as you can get, The Last Country Album could very well be the last country album … but let’s hope not.  For one, I am going to want to hear as much Heybale as I can.

MP3: “Honky Tonk Mood”

Heybale! official website 

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