“The big dogs cry for mercy/ I got a bible in the mail/ everybody finds Jesus in jail/ I never should have bought that gun/ I'm in jail, you're in jail/ I never should have bought that stupid gun.” - Jesus In Jail - Steve Satterwhite-D Smith.

When you're next riding your Harley through Old Cowtown in Fort Worth and you need a service check out The Hog Shop .

Mechanic Rod Balch might be just the good old boy to have you remounted in a few hot hours.

He might even sing while he services - he's got 16 songs on his debut album.

And, of course, they're all good ones.

Balch performs a healthy hybrid of country, blues and soulful swing - with a little help from a studio band that includes Asleep At The Wheel pianist Floyd Domino, Ray Austin on pedal steel and dobro, Milo Deering on violin, dobro and viola, Jon Paris on harmonica and Kurt Baumer on violin.

There's also drummer David “Davy” Crocket - not the bloke parodied by Don Bowman in The Coward Of The Alamo .

Balch also plays acoustic guitar and harmonica and has a fine line in dry Texan humour from the entrée The Red Truck that segues into The New York Shuffle and Rehab Rendezvous .

Credit for that humour goes to producer Steve Satterwhite who wrote all songs except Ripple by the late Billy Marlowe, Mississippi Sheiks traditional tune Blood In My Eyes and the Balch penned fitting finale Cowtown.

Let's start at the entrée.

The character loses his son to the military to fight in an Asian war, faces drought devastated cotton crops and death - all from the cabin of his red pick-up truck as he heads to Fort Worth and beyond.

The New York Shuffle finds Wall Street wastrels, street junkies, foreign hustlers and other big city bozos tossed into the blender with a fierce desire to emerge as refined refugees.

Rehab Rendezvous , penned with guitarist Bradley Whittington and drummer Michael Holleman, is the first and possibly best of the booze trio that includes The Bar Song and Beer Here .

Then there's the ruptured romantic requiem Up The Road where the character believes his lover, father and other travellers will meet again on the road that, of course, goes on forever.

No good album is complete without religion - Balch finds Jesus In Jail after a mishap with a gun and the boss's mama in Madgalena's Waltz.

The bucolic belle in the latter is a “hooker from Jesus” who collects old IOUs from a broken down cowboy after a life on a long winding road to New York City .

They're sibling songs of sorts of the jagged edges of catalogues of fellow Texans Cary Swinney and old Billy Joe Shaver.

Western worship is also important - adolescent Denver Saturday night movie memories of John Wayne (not Davy Crockett) dying at the Alamo are also revived in The Alamo .

Vagabond Magazine Blues finds the narrator parodying the pulp publications that thrive on a staple diet of religious and political conflicts, freak show characters, faux fashion and cloying celebrities.

Balch and Satterwhite collaborate on the swing driven humorous tune about a mythical nymph and day time TV host who decamps West Fort Worth for Georgia despite red roses in Bootleg Valentine .


“Down in Pasadena , Texas , they got a sign for the Ku Klux Clan/ that's where Karla Faye was born and raised/ she drew the devil's hand / her mother was a junkie whore/ her father was the worst/ Karla should have died of heroin but she killed two people first.” - Carla's Room - Steve Satterwhite.

Not sure if it's salient sequencing but best song is Carlo's Room that is based on Karla Faye Tucker - the methamphetamine murderer who found Jesus on death row before being executed in 1998.

Mary Gauthier and seven times wed Texan refugee Steve Earle have sung and written about Tucker in song and plays.

Like Gauthier's song this explores homicide, redemption, vengeance, soul sickness and bureaucratic murder played out to their fullest in the life and death of Tucker - the Texas woman executed by lethal injection at Huntsville in 1998.

Karla's plight received massive publicity around the world, probably because she was an attractive woman and a born-again Christian, who committed a horrific crime.

At that point the US had not executed a woman since Ethel Rosenberg, in 1953, and Texas had not executed a woman since 1863.

Karla Faye Tucker was born to a drug-addicted prostitute and became one herself very young - she was a doper by age 8, and a junkie on heroin before she hit her teens.

Her mother regularly got high with her when she was a child, and her mother's boyfriend showed her how to use the needle when she was 11 years old.

She immediately became a needle freak.

Her mother showed her the life of a prostitute, showed her the way to make money with her sex.

At 23 with her boyfriend at her side, she participated in a break-in and double murder, and in a drug induced state of junkie bravado, even bragged about it.

She said she “got off on it.”

It made for great newspaper copy, a pretty woman “getting off” on committing a double murder with her boyfriend.

Balch follows that with Ripple and the rollicking Swing Me Back - where the character rejects embryonic Baptist lures but catches VD in the armed services in Vietnam and escapes Janet Reno driving a pick-up truck in Miami to return to Fort Worth .

So it's no surprise that Balch finishes this old chunk coal with his trip down south to biker unfriendly Houston and rapid return to the wistful dreams of Cowtown.

Balch may be reminiscent of bands diverse as Commander Cody and The Lost Gonzo Band and borrow from peers but he's still a diamond in the rough worth his weight on the wireless.

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