October is "Country Music Month," and thanks again to Hightone we get a big dose of real honky-tonk from a big fellow named Dallas Wayne. The aptly titled Big Thinkin'
is the first American release by Wayne, who has a number of European albums to his credit. Co-produced and supported musically and vocally by Robbie Fulks, Big Thinkin'
is a fine introduction for this fellow. Wayne's deep voice and classic sound are a welcome respite from the utterly banal Nashville hatboys, and the themes here are pure country. Fulks wrote or co-wrote most of the tunes with Wayne and manages to make his presence felt through the trademark wit and humor found on his own albums. As a matter of fact, in some ways, Big Thinkin'
is like a Robbie Fulks album with a different singer. The Skeletons fill the album with hot, twangy instrumental sounds, while Wayne's deep, baritone voice occasionally nods toward Junior Brown and Randy Travis. Singing from the heart, but every so often with his tongue stuck in his cheek, he hits the mark on wicked two-steppers like "She'll Go Down (In Honky Tonk History)," and "We Never Killed Each Other (But Didn't We Try?)," nails Nashville with "If That's Country," and probes the depths of despair in the powerful "Lie Memory Lie." If there's a weak spot to be found, it's in the sameness of the ballads. The low vibrato in Wayne's voice, which is prominent on the slower songs, can be a bit distracting at times. Nevertheless, this may be one of the best real country albums to come out this year. It sticks to the tried-and-true traditional formula but proves that it's possible to keep history sounding fresh.
Dallas Wayne plays the Star Bar, Thurs., Oct. 12.