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Texas Law & Justice

Bill Neely

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Album Review

Six of these 20 tracks (nine of which were previously unreleased) are identified as having been recorded at Neely's home in April 1973; no dates are given for the other cuts, except for the notation that all "were recorded on previous occasions." Probably they weren't recorded that long before the April 1973 material, given the general similarity of the sound throughout the disc. Anyway, this is quite good down-home country music with hints of rockabilly and blues, far above the usual standards of modestly produced folkloric sessions by musicians who worked almost totally outside of the commercial recording scene. There's really cool primitive, swirling electric guitar reverb, attaining an almost organ-like timbre in some respects; it's the kind of low-budget effect that the best modern studios would probably find impossible to replicate. Sometimes he gets assistance from a second guitarist and bassist, but there are never drums, and sometimes it's just him and his guitar. Neely sings and writes (all but one of the tracks is original) movingly, and without histrionics, about death, justice, Texas, religion ("Satan's Burning Hell" is the opener), and regret, getting into lighter moods on "Rock & Roll Baby" and the instrumental "Pflugerville Boogie." R. Powell St. John, who wrote some material for the 13th Floor Elevators, plays harmonica on a couple of numbers. It's hard to believe that Neely could not have made it as a commercial country songwriter, so tight and accomplished is his writing. But if he had, we might not have had a document as unvarnished in its charm as this recording is.

Biography

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s

Music was the magic that transformed Bill Neely from a poor sharecropper's son during the Depression era into a respected entertainer with a career that spanned decades. It transported him from his humble roots in Texas to such worldly cities as Paris and Washington, D.C., leading the singer and composer to play esteemed venues that included the Smithsonian Institution. Not too shabby for a Collin County boy who had been forced to leave school in the eighth grade and seek employment when he was just...
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Texas Law & Justice, Bill Neely
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