René West's second CD, This Town, collects 12 new character-driven songs about working class people - it's filled with often flawed but likeable factory workers, used car salesmen, gold diggers, hotel workers, and murderers. The songs explore social issues, and the narratives are delivered in a strong, full voice that Matthew Smith of Fort Worth Weekly described as "part Janis Joplin, part Lucinda Williams, part West's own style." This Town's dozen original songs include many of her most requested songs. The opening track, "Counting Pennies," sets the stage with a person searching sofa cracks for change to buy gas. "Close Out Sale" is a metaphor for divorce and a criticism of consumer culture. "Moon and the Stars" reflects on the value of love in a materialistic world, while "Pretty" explores the lure of the city and media's influence on a young girl's desires. The title track is about three generations of factory workers, and "Lonely Highway" is the story of a disgruntled front desk clerk. West delivers one punch line after another in "Please Steal My Car," (a co-write with John Walker), a witty take on hard times. "Cigarettes and Beer" seems to be about a victim, until the ending twist. Once the gothic theme of This Town began to emerge, West edited, reworked, and wrote new songs. This Town was recorded by Mark Penland in West's 1920s bungalow during the past year. West said she was "looking for the intimate sound that comes from a room filled with hard woods and old books." West plays acoustic guitar and sings on all of the tracks. She also adds a bit of percussion and harmony on "Pretty." Austin-based songwriter Eric Hisaw adds lead electric guitar. West describes meeting Hisaw as "a real stroke of luck. From the first notes out of his guitar, I knew he was the perfect guitarist for the songs." Other core musicians are Earl Johnson on bass; Rodger Harrison on dobro, lap steel, bass, percussion, and harmonies; and William Bryan Massey III and Andy Mayer on drums. Some of the best musicians in the Dallas-Fort Worth area add cameos, including Jenni Mansfield Peal on accordion and harmonies; Bob "Zen Bubba" Williford on lap steel, electric guitar, and harmonies; Marj Troyer on mandolin; David Mills on keyboards; Daniel "D" Hardaway on trumpets; and Glenn Milam on electric guitar. Kree Davis, Mike Kelley, Elizabeth Penland, Chris Curtis, and Kelly Curtis provide additional harmonies. The tracks were mixed at Patrick McGuire Recording Inc., in Arlington and mastered by Jerry Tubb at Terra Nova Digital Audio, Inc., in Austin.
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