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Austin Chronicle Down at the Sky-Vue Drive-In

APRIL 27, 1998: 

DON WALSER

Down at the Sky-Vue Drive-In (Sire/Watermelon)

Down at the Sky-Vue Drive-In may well herald Don Walser's long-overdue move to the national stage, as local indie Watermelon Records has teamed with big kahuna Sire in an effort to bring the country crooner the wider audience he so clearly deserves. That audience will find Walser covering what the locals know as familiar ground, with Down at the Sky-Vue slapping Walser's trademark tenor over a standard set running from traditional country to Western swing to good ol' three-chord rock & roll. And while the song selection isn't quite as strong as on Walser's previous releases, there are plenty of quality cuts on here: the blessedly archaic "Are You Teasing Me?" (featuring a guest turn by Mandy Barnett), the marbles-in-the-mouth yodel number, "The Devil's Great Grandson," and the haunting, operatic beauty of "Rose Marie," Walser's much-hyped collaboration with the Kronos Quartet, and far and away the album's most inventive track. Still, there's a nagging sense that Sky-Vue ain't quite the Walser we know and love, but rather Walser embellished. And as all locals know, Big Don don't need no embellishment. It's damn near beating a dead horse by now to point out that Walser's work with Ray Benson is overproduced, and Sky-Vue is no exception. The album is full of minor flourishes that smack of studio work and add nothing to Walser's style: Perhaps most egregious are the background singers on "Fool Such As I," which is a great song until the moment that maudlin chorus chimes in. It goes without saying that Down at the Sky-Vue Drive-In beats the tar out of the sound that's coming out of Nashville these days, but does it beat the sound coming out of Jovita's on any given Tuesday night? Probably not.
2.5 Stars - Jay Hardwig


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