The Boxmasters. Somewhere Down The Road. 101 Ranch Records

It’s a game of two half’s here on this double CD set from actor Billy Bob Thornton’s troupe, The Boxmasters. Thornton (here listed as “Bud”) drums and sings most of the vocals for the band with Teddy Andrewis, keyboards, Brad Davis, guitar and JD Andrew on bass completing the complement. Obviously The Boxmasters are not Thornton’s main gig, busy as he is winning Golden Globe awards for his performances in shows such as Fargo taking up some of his time however they’re far from a vanity project and Somewhere Down The Road stands up well apart from the celebrity in their midst.

Two half’s? Well, for some reason disc 1 here is a well-crafted collection of songs that are hewn from the same quarry as sixties jangled pop and rock with a dash of power pop thrown in, echoes of The Flamin’ Groovies, The Hollies and The Byrds are heard here and there. Disc 2 is darker, contemporary Americana songs with pedal steel from Jon Rauhouse adding some spice. While The Boxmasters have had mixed reviews for their previous efforts here the song writing is well above par while Thornton manages his vocals well, quite recognisable on several of the latter disc’s songs while the poppier demands of the first disc have him managing high notes and harmonies with no difficulty. Highlights include the Everly influenced Kathy Won’t Share which is swathed in tasty guitar licks and garlanded with a fine chorus and the fine pop thump of You’ll Be lonely Tonight which could have graced a Traveling’ Wilburys’ album. Over on disc two things get off to a fine start on the prowling and dark Away, Away. Always Lie is a John Prine like number as Thornton advises the listener that the best way to survive is to be economical with the truth, a lesson learned perhaps from his encounters with showbiz reporters as he sings
“Remember to resist when they grab you by the wrist. You know they’re gonna always twist every word you say. Their world is only black and white, cold darkness and a shining light. They’re a little short too short of sight to see that life is always gray.”
Who Can Tell is a murder ballad of the first degree, a pregnant young girl cut to pieces under a train and delivered with a country stagger. Best of all however is the pedal steel laced Young Man’s Game, a co-write with Rauhouse which is infused with nostalgia for the old days as Thornton lays down his most wearied vocal before an excellent instrumental ending with the pedal steel curling away over mandolin and strummed guitars.

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