Teri Joyce,
Kitchen Radio
(independent, 2009)

Not much country music comes out of mainstream Nashville these days. There's even talk, long overdue, that the very genre designation may be jettisoned. Still, real country music -- roughly defined as the blue-collar sound forged in Southern/Southwestern bars and dance halls in the middle decades of the last century -- thrives in local and regional scenes. The most prominent of them is Texas, which has always been unusually open to rooted music of various descriptions.

Never static, country music seemed to redefine itself every decade or so. It wasn't necessarily a straight-line progression from a rooted Southern sound to a more cosmopolitan pop, either. Country went backwards and forwards in periodic adjustments, straying only so far from its origins before stripping off the pop gloss and reinventing itself in a relatively rougher, more "authentic" direction. The genre resisted easy categorization as folk or pop, rural or urban; it was always a blend, though not always in identical proportions. What it always produced, however, was an identifiable sound. When you heard it, you knew it was country. Sometime in the last 20 years, when most Nashville music started to mimic 1970s rock and pop, "country" was reduced to a marketing slogan, surviving only because nobody in a suit could think up another one.

Active in the Austin scene as both performer and composer of songs for fellow artists, Teri Joyce is country by any definition. The title song of this, her debut CD, celebrates the great stuff that used to glide over the airwaves from country's outposts in Nashville and elsewhere. In those days country was a common language that spoke to all who would hear, and it was as close as your nearest AM radio. In the 1970s -- the decade in which her particular melodic country-pop approach dominated playlists -- Joyce probably would have been a star. Happily, she's young and doing what she does, which she does very well indeed, in the early 21st century. That means -- I hope -- that we'll be hearing her for years to come.

All of the songs here are of her own creation, and I know they're good because they just sound better each time I hear them. I enjoy everything about Kitchen Radio, not least the leanness and angularity of its production, courtesy of Joyce and her co-producer Justin Trevino, himself a hard-core honkytonk singer held in awe by all within listening distance or experience. A host of Texas' finest pickers (Bobby Flores, Cindy Cashdollar, Jim Stringer and more) backs up Joyce's swinging, good-timey vocals. Roger Wallace, another of the Lone Star state's top-drawer hillbilly singers, shows up for a sizzling duet on "Fifteen Minutes of Shame," an epic of lust and guilt like they used to before Nashville, to its everlasting shame, went family-friendly.

review by
Jerome Clark

6 March 2010

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