By James Calemine
Barbara Cue contains an abundance of talent. This all-star Athens, Georgia, line-up has crafted a timeless Americana banquet on Louisiana Truckstop. Todd Nance and William Tonks shared a common passion for NRBQ (whom Barbara Cue opened an Athens show for last year) and soon recruited various local players to join their low-key side group during time off from various other musical commitments.
John Neff (Star Room Boys, pedal steel/guitar), bassist Jon Mills (Redneck Greece), and guitarist/bassist Paul “Crumpy” Edwards (Bloodkin) completed the rare line-up in 1997. Recorded at Chase Park Transduction studio in Athens, the songs on Louisiana Truckstop are loaded with catchy country hooks that remain just one chord change away from wide open rock and roll. The undeniable power of Louisiana Truckstop is how well the songs transfer during live performances.
“Find A Fool” starts the album with a stomping honky tonk abandon. John Hermann (Widespread Panic) and David Barbe (sixth Cue member) lend a hand on the smoky bar room piano playing. Tonks (Six String Drag, guitar/dobro) and Neff lace whiskey twangs with their guitar playing throughout such songs as “The Wrong Lover” and “Pictures of You”. Barbara Cue accomplishes a blending of all instruments to wash over the songs, transcending pigeonhole labels, while each member remains hidden in the background.
Vocal duties are shared, while Edwards and Mills take turns on guitar and bass, maintaining a solid rhythm section on the disc and live shows. Nance (Widespread Panic, drums) sings lead vocals on the laid back “Don’t Take it Away”, a soul anthem co-written by an old friend John Donley.
“Back to Town” and “Dig Deeper” are ZUMA-ish six string songs built around Tonks’ and Neff’s virtuosity. The title track is the final song on the album and the lush instrumentation makes the band sound like they’re on the other side of the screen door; the songs reeks of a summer afternoon in the swamp. All in all, Louisiana Truckstop is a down-home musical gumbo.