The worst thing about Transistordale is that name, for God’s sakes. It was inspired, so to speak, by bassist Spence Thompson’s ownership of the Sisterdale Bar and drummer B.J. Shuler’s “fetish for radio towers,” according to bandleader Greg “Smiles” Layne. Both Layne and Shuler are former members of Dog Men Poets and this debut is, simply put, the local album of the year so far. Of course, we’re only a few weeks into it, but it will be hard to match Smiles’ terrific alcohol-and-nicotine-stained singing (imagine Joe Cocker channeling Doug Sahm), his tasteful guitar solos, the band’s three-part vocal harmonies, and the overall solid songwriting. Transistordale’s rootsy, bluesy type of Texas country-rock is far from innovative. But singing about how you think your girlfriend is even better than your mother, and then clarifying in the chorus that “that was before she did me wrong/that was before I wrote this song,” and following up with a superb mid-tempo track (“Games People Play”) and an even better ballad (“Rain On Me”), is a refreshing lesson on the most difficult art: how to write simple, direct, clever songs.
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