Stephen David Austin 'A Bakersfield Dozen' - Self-Release

Country music is about the songs and Stephen David Austin has written a bunch of them that fit the bill. Titles like Best X I Ever Had or The Day Buck Owens Died could only be hardcore country. While Austin doesn't posses the greatest voice you might have heard he delivers these songs with understanding and passion. Add to that some fine playing from the likes of Marty Rifkin (who mixed the album), Skip Edwards, Brantley Kearns and Shawn Nourse, all West Coast country music veterans and you have one solid, smart album. His song Heroes and Heroin tells of the demise of Gram Parsons and other musicians drawn to the allure of hard drugs. While Back To Bakersfield is a tale of family migration and a poor but honest existence. The Fat Kid is about prejudice and bullying that leads to devastating outcome that while it runs over seven minutes holds the attention of the listener who can guess the inevitable outcome of the story. My Space takes a somehat sarcastic  view of selling your songs, and more, on the internet. The closing track is a stripped back guitar and voice delivery where Austin is joined by his grandson Kayleb and is not as cloying as one might expect and manages to make you smile. The one cover is a countryfied version of  Lennon/McCartney's Baby's In Black that is well handled and fits right in beside Austin's own songs though I'm not sure why it was included over another original song. As a wrier he tackles the serious and the sanguine and in that light reminds me of Dallas Wayne who wrote a similar mix of grounded material that can only come with some understanding and maturity. The title of the album and the Buck Owens songs all attest to Austin's love of the music that emanates from there it's heyday and is very removed from what is (mostly) coming from mainstream Nashville today. Anyone looking for their country music neat should order up a Bakersfield dozen right away.