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The Star Room Boys

Why Do Lonely Men and Women Want to Break Each Other's Hearts?

Strictly Bush

In an time of big hair and navel rings, this debut album from the Athens, Georgia five piece-reacquaints a listener with how country music should be played -- with weeping pedal steel, deep as a canyon vocals, and a heartfelt message of the ache of loneliness. Echoes of Haggard and Jones abound, with a bit of Buck Owens shuffle on cuts like "Was There Something in Her Eye?" The Star Room Boys play it straight -- pure hard country, no cheap veneer of pop added in a vain attempt to garner sales. The album rings true in its depictions of the misery of heartbreak, and Dave Marr's vocals could make the driest eye in the bar misty. Johnny Neff's steel work is nothing short of brilliant -- spare, evocative lines that provide a searching, yearning undercurrent to the song's message. Well-produced by David Barbe (Sugar), the Star Room Boys have made a record that will surely end up on top ten lists at year's end -- and perhaps the strongest country debut since a couple of guys named Earle and Yoakam pumped new life into the genre a few years ago. Not to be missed.

Strictly Bush Records, P.O. Box 28, Athens, GA 30603; http://www.starroom.com

--James Mann