Billy Joe Shaver & Kinky Friedman- Dar Williams - I See Hawks in L.A.

Billy Joe Shaver & Kinky Friedman - Live Down Under

Recorded nearly two decades ago in Sydney, Australia, this show features beloved Texas legends Kinky Friedman and the late Billy Joe Shaver. Amusingly, with both artists being of equal stature, a coin was flipped to see who would go first and this is included as the first cut on the album. Shaver won the toss and opens the show with a take on his self-penned "Georgia on a Fast Train" where band member Jesse "Guitar" Taylor plays speedy acoustic guitar, just as fast as that train to Georgia. Most of the songs here are self-penned, and Friedman's first song is the reflective "Western Union Wire." The pair take turns at the microphone as they work through ten songs each, with Shaver's contributions including "Old Chunk of Coal," "Ride Me Down Easy," "When the Fallen Angels Fly" and favorite "Honky Tonk Heroes" which he dedicates to his late pal Waylon Jennings who also recorded the cut. Friedman's selections include "Wild Man from Borneo," "Before All Hell Breaks Loose," "Live Forever," the always amusing "Ride 'em Jewboy" and a take on his co-write with A.P. Carter, "Keep on the Sunnyside" where Billy Joe joins in for a verse. Live Down Under is a true treasure for fans of these two highly-respected performers.

Dar Williams - I'll Meet You Here

She's been busy as an educator, author and urban-planning expert so fans should forgive Williams for taking six years to complete I'll Meet You Here. Perhaps with a bit of a wink Williams begins the album with "Time, Be My Friend," an easygoing cut that tries to appraise a relationship based on the past as well as things that haven't happened yet and that includes endearing lyrics like "And I will be your brave companion/Your adventurous D'Artagnan/I will be your best receiver/Your goldenest retriever." Williams sings with a girl-next-door openness and when she portrays a woman trying to make a relationship work with a newcomer to her "Little Town" it's easy to visualize what that town's Main Street looks like, gussied up for Independence Day or hosting an ice cream social. More of her lyric writing prowess is on display on "Berkeley;" "And Berkeley, still Pagan/Still angry at Reagan." Saving the world from ecological disaster is the theme of "Today and Every Day," and the song that name checks the plight of polar bears in particular is the album's most upbeat and uplifting song. Well-spoken and moody magnificence is Williams' forte and she's really on the mark here.

I See Hawks in L.A. - On Our Way

This long running Americana outfit has a sound that will please fans of groups like the Flying Burrito Brothers and other acts that worked, as Gram Parsons put it, in the "cosmic American" genre. Speaking of cosmic, the lengthy "Know Just What to Do" begins with an otherworldly fiddle riff from guest player Brantley Kearns, otherwise the song Is completely down to earth as lead singer Rob Waller sings sedately of handling daily life, although Kearns' outre fiddle pops up now and again giving the cut a bit of a Grateful Dead-like vibe. "Mississippi Gas Station Blues" rocks the blues in a Black Keys-like manner while Waller takes a break to give drummer Victoria Jackson a spot behind the microphone on "Kensington Market" which echoes the Velvet Underground and Nico. Bass man Paul Marshall also gets a vocal turn as he sings lead on "Radio Keeps Me on the Ground" where he also harmonizes with Waller; the cut is about imagining that the voice on the radio is that of a lover. A touch of funk infiltrates album closer "How You Gonna Know," a long, psychedelic groove that demonstrates that this is not a band to be pigeonholed. The foursome is rounded out by guitarist Paul Lacques who also handles lap steel and mandolin.

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