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Mark Utley - Bulletville

Mark Utley - Bulletville

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"Bulletville delivers a solid package of tear stained and heart wrenching country songs that run the gamut from George-and-Tammy-like laments to beer fuelled honky tonking gut busters fuelled by lashings of pedal steel.

The album opens with the loping bass into to "Good Timin’ Girl", a breeze of a song with a classic bittersweet country tale that could have been written by Dolly Parton and sung by Kenny Rogers, in fact if Rogers or any of his ilk ever took this on then it would be a guaranteed hit. As it is the performance here is exemplary, Utley almost croons the words while Frye adds a multtitracked refrain, the pedal steel is sweet and honeyed and Nye offers up a fine piano solo. "Wish You Were Her", however steers well clear of the charts and heads for the bars as the band sway into Ameripolitan territory and the guitars grimace instead of smile. A woozy waltz time lament with a seventies feel courtesy of the electric keyboards and fuzzy bass line it sees Utley and his partner sharing a table but separated by miles of estrangement. The album is packed full of these wonderful odes to lost or failed love with Utley mining the past and coming up with new treasures such as the classic couplet “I just can’t remember to forget” on the honky tonk tones of "Remember To Forget" while "Honey, I’m Home" weeps wonderfully as Utley swaps the family home for the local pub in an attempt to drown his sorrows. "One Heartbeat At A Time" is another break up song but it’s delivered with the commercial heartbeat that John Hartford sounded out on "Gentle On My Mind" and is another example of the commercial potential contained herein. While all of the band are in excellent form here Renee Frye in particular sparkles with her harmony support with "Only In Our Minds", an excellent country duet. She has two showcases here, the rolling and tumbling boogie "Firecracker" where she is as sassy as Loretta Lynn, while "The Only Thing" is another tear jerking lament offering the female counterpoint to Utley’s songs of loss.

If this were all the album would be a winner but they throw in a couple of belters just to up the ante. "Four In The Morning" swaggers in with a muscular swing as beefy pedal steel and swirling organ churn and boil over a menacing rhythm producing a song that has the heft of a Joe Ely song back when he was a pal of The Clash. "Jesus Wept" is simpler in its delivery with some Bakersfield country in the twang guitars as Utley sings “I’m broke as hell, all my bills are due, My girlfriend’s mad and my wife is too” on a song that just about encapsulates the stereotype of red necked country music lovers. It’s a bit of a hoot. Utley closes the album with the only cover, a version of fellow TIAM artists, Great Peacock’s "Bluebird" which he dresses up in warm vocals and sweet pedal steel murmurings, a sweet end to a meaty album." - Paul Kerr, Blabber 'n' Smoke