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Album Review

Texas singer/songwriter Mark David Manders is something of a legend in his home state, where his live shows have built him a solid core of fans. Cannonball comes on the heels of the somewhat more introspective Highs and Lows, and finds him returning to his honky tonk roots with a supporting cast that includes fiddler Heather Morris, backup singer Blondie Chaplin (known for her work with the Rolling Stones), and several members of Bonnie Raitt's band. The resulting sound is surprisingly light and largely acoustic, with some hot electric guitar picking and Hammond B-3 organ thrown in for good measure. Manders' voice isn't the most powerful in the world, but his songs are impressive: the title track is presented in two versions, an "Austin Mix" and a "Los Angeles Mix," both of which are jauntily attractive in subtly different ways, and "Three Fingers Tequila" is a bar band singalong that has been an audience favorite for years. Several other songs (notably "Good Enough for Me" and "Eight Track") are pleasant without being exceptional, but the album's highlight track — an all-out rocker called "Take a Look Around" — will have you hitting the "repeat" button. So will the affecting and heartfelt "Frio River." Recommended overall.

Cannonball, Mark David Manders
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