When it comes to that slippery music genre called alt-country, it's often easy to find the "alt" but all too often difficult to find the "country." Throwing a pedal steel over a morphine-paced slacker whine just doesn't cut it, son. Nor does a pale imitation of the country-rock hybrid best pulled off 30 years ago by folks such as Gram Parsons, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Buffalo Springfield and Poco. But hard country can be found in the River City, served up in a full-blown honky-tonk style that would be recognized and admired by Lefty, George, Merle, Porter, Connie, Kitty and Hank -- Thompson, that is. If you want to hear the real deal, played red-hot and true, track down the Rockhouse Ramblers. Fronted by Kip Loui and driven by the guitars of Gary Hunt and John Horton, this quartet knows a full range of '40s, '50s and '60s honky-tonk classics, from the hits to such obscure gems as a Johnny Bush jolt of heartache called "What a Way to Live." No housewife country or freeze-dried Garth Brooks horseshit from these guys. And none of this homage crap that makes you feel as if you're in a mausoleum instead of a juke joint. These boys play it right but make the music their own -- shuffle beat, lost love, Hunt's tasty if occasional steel work and the dead-on George Jones sliding vocals of bassist Dade Farrar. Check 'em out.
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