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Ruby Dee & The Snakehandlers: Live From Austin Texas  

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Walking bass lines. Check. Quaint lyrics alluding to a bygone era. Check. A song about slick hair. Check. Ruby Dee and The Snakehandlers have compiled a "best of" collection for this live album, but it comes off more as rockabilly paint-by-numbers. Originally from Seattle, Dee and Co. are attempting to break into a genre where people can tell the difference between genuine and trying. The cracks show in some of Dee's over-twanging vocals, delivering to listeners a character, albeit one that is well-played. That's not to say there isn't enjoyment to be had in Jorge Harada's talented guitar licks, and all the rockabilly elements come together fluidly in the catchy opener "Who Is She?" But when Dee turns vocal duties over to Harada, things go south quick. Harada's crooning on "Switchblade Pompadour," for instance, drips with such stereotypical ornaments that it can only be treated as parody. Rockabilly is inherently built upon romanticized memories of a time most players today never experienced, but it would still be nice to see the genre expand rather than stay hitched to the tried and true.

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