Red Meat

We Never Close (Rancho Records)

Red Meat's hardcore country music has been winning the band raves since it emerged from a Mission District garage 14 years ago. In the intervening decade-plus, the group became the late Buck Owens' local backing band, released three excellent albums, and scored a top-five single in France with "Texas Texas" from Meet Red Meat.

We Never Close is another solid display of Red Meat's diversity and the growing songwriting prowess of Scott Young and Jill Olson. For example, the band offers an amusing take on Toby Keith's nasty "High Maintenance Woman." Re-envisioned here by Young as a "High Maintenance Babe," the tune becomes a rollicking swing number buffeted by a faux trumpet intro and Michael Montaldo's sparkling guitar solo. Vocalist Smelly Kelly's dreamy, understated delivery makes "That Couple in Love" a real heartbreaker, as he describes watching young lovers and remembering a lost relationship of his own. But Red Meat has more than amour on the brain here. Olson's "Queen of King City" is a Tex-Mex-meets-Bakersfield tale of a small-town gal in L.A., while Montaldo shows off his chops on his instrumental, "Moonrock." The latter is a twang-fest with a moody pedal steel bridge by guest picker Doug Livingston. The album wraps on a high note with a bluegrass-flavored take on country gospel superstar Dottie Rambo's "I'm Gonna Leave Here Shoutin'," a glimpse into the band's version of honky-tonk heaven.

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