Johnny Irion Unity Lodge

The best material on Unity Lodge evokes some of the great singer/songwriters, like Willie Nelson, Graham Parsons and Neil Young. With a voice suggesting that Irions has spent some quality time with After the Goldrush (indeed, "Think Tank" and "Any Ol Where" sound like outtakes from these sessions), Irions succeeds in laying down ten country rockers that often feel like they were conceived and committed to tape in the early '70s. Sad steel guitars, plunky banjos, autoharps and acoustic guitars texture most of Irions's material, giving it a traditional slant while fuzzed-out guitars and power chords add bulk and balls to the album in reserved doses. In this way, Unity Lodge excels in its variety, teaming a '70s highway rocker like "Frontage Road" beside a sing-along work song like "Thirty Inch Coal." Johnny Irions sounds like he's been schooled by the best, and Unity Lodge can only be an omen of more great things to come. (Yep Roc)