Ronnie Fauss. Built To Break. Normaltown Records

When Another Town, the opening song on Dallas based Ronnie Fauss’s Built To Break came banging out of the speakers for the first time Blabber’n’Smoke had a quick double take moment. Surely this was Scotland’s own Wynntown Marshals beavering away under a pseudonym? Turns out not to be the case but Another Town is a dead ringer for The Marshals, vocally Fauss sounds like Keith Benzie while the song belts along in similar fashion to Wynntown goodies such as Canada with big crunchy guitars and whip smart solos driving it along. Probably not the best way to start a review but the resemblance is striking and as regular readers of Blabber’n’Smoke will know a comparison to The Marshals is praise indeed. However Fauss is at heart a blue collar country rocker and a more apt comparison might be Robert Earl Keen, both documenting the other side of life in Texas red dirt life, case in point, the lyrics of Another Town…”well the neighbours said you made a big scene today Screaming that you would be damned before the state take your baby away And I remember that I swore I’d do my best But now I’m here in this hotel room stacking bottles on my chest.”

There’s more hi octane rocking on A Natural End and on the magnificent Eighteen Wheels, a trucking song where Fauss shares vocals with Rhett Miller (of the Old 97’s) which scoots along splendidly with frantic keyboards and a litany of musical heroes purifying the trucker’s soul as he heads for home. Old Life is a rush of words, fiddle, pedal steel and organ with lyrics worthy of Woody Guthrie which takes the wind out of the listener with its pace and energy. Elsewhere there’s the wild yearning country rock of A Place Out In The Country which has the lurch of vintage Crazy Horse and the dual guitar duelling of the Allman’s all coming to a boil towards the exhilarating climax.

Fauss takes his foot off the throttle on occasion delivering the fine Come On Down, a celebration of the working man and on The Big Catch, a song that hints at a dark secret in a kid’s past. Never Gonna Last is a delightful Dobro fuelled duet with Jenna Paulette that recalls country duets such as Dolly and Porter’s but Fauss goes all out on the subdued cover of a Phosphorescent song, Song For Zula which is just this side of sublime. His vocals and acoustic guitar are gradually joined by guitar and backing vocals over a gentle bass line giving the song a fine melancholic air without losing any of the pathos of the original. In addition it links Fauss again to The Wynntown Marshals who once sang a song about a gorilla in captivity. Weird coincidence.

Anyway, Built To Break is an excellent listen and well recommended.

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