Willie Heath Neal 'Out On The Highway' Chicken Ranch

For his latest album Willie Heath Neal has been produced by Legendry Shack*Shakers lynchpins Mark Robertson and JD Wilkes. The result is the best album to date that has energy, attitude and heart. As you might expect from the producers there are some full on songs but there are also mid-tempo songs like Porter's Blues built around a solid drum beat, twangy guitar and rounded organ tones that highlight the versatility of the songs and Neal's and richly veined voice. Something that the next song Something's Wrong With The Radio shows well with it's honky-tonk piano tone. Both producers are also involved on the playing side alongside Heath's own band and guests like Amanda Shires on fiddle. The majority of the songs are originals with some interesting covers like ZZ Top's She's A Heartbreaker given a run for its money. Glenn Danzig's Attitude has loads and links to punk rock past. The high-energy speeded delivery of the Bill Fries/Chip Davis' The Classifieds is fun, frantic and fulsome. Alabama Highway, from the pen of Steve Young is delivered in Neal's best baritone and fits the mood of movement and the miles of myriad motels. Outlaw Song uses that contentious word and what it might represent in country music and its environs. But here Neal seems more entitled to consider himself an outsider to the country mainstream that most having been on the fringes for a hell of a long time. One can only hope that Out On The Highway will bring him some warranted attention for what is a life-affirming and honest album that hits all the right notes for those who seeks some authentic attitude and like their music to recognize its past traditions but to be very much of the here and now.