Amazing Rhythm Aces Chock Full Of Country Goodness

Old-timers who recall the Top 20 hit "Third Rate Romance," will be thrilled to learn that the most of the original band is in full gear after their disappearance in 1980, churning out their once-unique brand of country-rock, woven around the distinctive lead vocals and sly songwriting talents of Russell Smith. In the news, lately due to the untimely death of drummer Butch McDade (to which this CD is dedicated), this disc pays worthy tribute. New guitarist Tony Bowles adds considerable strength and depth to their playing and the subtle accents of Jim Vest's steel guitar and Billy Earheart III's Hammond organ have built Smith a tasteful platform upon which to rekindle his smooth charms. The Amazing Rhythm Aces occupy space somewhere between Commander Cody and Ray Benson's Asleep At The Wheel. Less rocking than the former and less overtly country than the latter's swing niche. Yet they have created an authentic brand of country all their own, driven by Smith's rock-powered voice, which approaches Southern soul when it's not kicking into redneck country-rock. Smith dips into multiple personalities throughout the disc's 12 originals and is clearly capable of sounding convincing in all of them. With little effort. The beautiful "Vera Cruz" is a breathtaking ballad — the album's masterwork and a worthy single. James Hooker's piano and Earheart's B-3 merge on the captivating "The Rock," to create another memorable moment. And "Makin' Nothing Outa Somethin'" is another lifting ballad, showcasing Smith's range and Vest's delicate Steel Guitar touches. "Guardian Angel" mines Hot Rod Lincoln territory and "Jerry Fontaine And His Jammin' Guitar" has them playing as hard and fast like men half their ages. They've clearly lost none of their charm over the years. The Amazing Rhythm Aces are back — in many ways, they never really left. (Valley)