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Album Review

The second solo album by "Scrappy" Jud Newcomb, a fixture on the Austin blues-rock scene since the late '80s, isn't the piece of outright guitar-hero showboating that one might expect from its provenance. Instead, it's a singer/songwriter-oriented effort filled with quiet acoustic tunes and roots rock shuffles rather than soloing showcases; James McMurtry comes to mind much more often than Stevie Ray Vaughan, and on the opening track "Plain and Simple," Paul Westerberg's solo work is the most obvious touchstone, with the song's world-weary resignation and Newcomb's hoarse delivery. "Damaged Goods" leavens the mood with chirpy female backing vocals and bongos, and "Is That Any Way?" features a groovy organ part played by Newcomb's occasional employer Ian McLagan. Overall, the album is as low-key as one of Eric Clapton's solo projects, but it benefits greatly from the rough and ready production and Newcomb's amiable croak of a voice. Byzantine just isn't polished enough to be boring, and that's a good thing.

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