Maurice Tani,
Blue Line, with 77 el Deora
Two Stroke, with Mike Anderson
(Western Independent, 2013)

Maurice Tani, a California country-rock singer, brings a whole lot of Bakersfield to the table on Blue Line, his new release with 77 el Deora. He's listened to his Merle Haggard and his Buck Owens and, if he hasn't built his sound on their models, he's been strongly influenced.

A neotraditionalist, he and his band play hard-core country. His opening song, "When I'm Drinkin', I Ain't Thinkin'," sounds like something you'd hear blasting out of your radio's speakers -- in 1967. Believe me, that is not a bad thing. It's honest, genuine, heart-felt country, something you won't hear on Clear Channel (which is just one of the reasons radio listenership drops by 25 percent a year, but that's another story).

When Tani does a weeper, like"Red Wine," it's like dipping into Ferlin Husky territory. Or maybe, to stretch it a little bit, Hank Williams country. After all, he does do "Your Cheatin' Heart" as the album closer.

On the companion disc, Two Stroke, released at the same time as Blue Line, Tani and bass player Mike Anderson do an acoustic set. Subtitled "Acoustic Duos & Trios," the album bring in guest artists for single tracks; while Tani and Anderson play on all tracks, they bring in other members of 77 el Deora one at a time to play where their contributions are essential to the song. They rely primarily on Adam Roszkiewitz for mandolin on several songs, while Steve Kallai plays the fiddle when his instrument fits the tune. Only once do more than three musicians appear on a song, and that's with Steven Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More," which benefits from Aireene Espiritu's harmony vocal.

Tani is a fine singer with a big baritone voice. Listening to him sing, even in a studio setting, you visualize him and the band in a honky-tonk, knocking it out for the dancers and drinkers. And you know that whatever they play, the final set is going to be hard-core country.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

3 May 2014

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