First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2004, Volume 11, #5
Written by T.J. Simon
On Hillbilly Pilgrim, Mark Erelli enlisted Boston-based, Western swingers The Spurs for support, and the resulting album is a spotty, but largely enjoyable, collection of classic country, revivalist fare that undoubtedly will please fans of BR549 and Wayne Hancock.
The Good Stuff: On songs like Brand New Baby, Erelli keeps the action fun, upbeat, and short to the benefit of the listener. His voice shares a similar pitch to Buddy Hollyís, which works tremendously well on the rockabilly cover of Clarence Gibsonís Troubles (These Lonesome Kind), and his tongue-in-cheek Christmas number Ainít No Time of Year to Be Alone is just begging to be utilized on a hard-luck, country-tinged, holiday compilation. The albumís highlight, however, is Pretend, a duet with the always terrific Erin McKeown. In addition, hats off to fiddler Rich Dubois whose fiery contributions give the album a warm, full sound.
The Not So Good Stuff: On a handful of the tracks, Erelli gets a bit over-earnest and long-winded, much to the albumís detriment. On a collection of self-proclaimed hillbilly music, there is no reason that any of its songs should creep north of the five-minute mark as witnessed on The Farewell Ball and A Bend in the River. Likewise, his good intentions on the gospel-folk Pilgrim Highway leave the listener without a payoff. In spite of these weak moments, however, thereís more than enough good stuff on Hillbilly Pilgrim to warrant a listen.
Hillbilly Pilgrim is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box