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Don't look for Red House Records to get nervous about the competition, but there's another sheriff in St. Paul, similarly devoted to acoustic music culled from the rural roots of America's Midwest. It's a tiny outfit called BT, showcasing some rather talented folk.
The guiding light at BT is a fine musician and fairly unassuming fella by the name of Bill Travers. His roster, at this point, is pretty unassuming as well, even though it does makes a world of sense. It comprises Travers and a couple sidekicks—Francis Duxbury III and Laura Moe—he took up with to form the Travelin' Moburys, all told an engaging trio with strong material, smoothly harmonizing, each able to entertain a crowd on his or her own. You can catch them in the act, waxing homegrown countrified, at Minnesota Music Café on Tuesday nights. That's Travers, Sir Duxbury, and Moe, all three on guitar and vocals.
Off the top is Bill Travers's The Legends. You'd be hard pressed to find handsomer homage to country music greats. Travers, with runnin' buddy Don Kaste producing, lays down rustic vocal tracks the way they should be. Simple and rich, highlighted by a lower range that'll have your old lady, while smiling in your eyes, wondering how to get hold of his home phone number (sorry, gals, Bill's hitched). Hank Williams's "Your Cheatin' Heart" is a number singers love to cover but few can put their own stamp on. Travers singularly brings truly hard-case taste of the down-and-out lovelorn blues. The classic "Six Days On The Road," written by Dave Dudley, gets a bright going-over that'll have you slappin' your knee, grinnin', raring to sing along.
Hide Me by Francis Duxbury III and Bill Travers features Duxbury on vocals, with Travers on lead guitar, and is a good piece of work. The moody "Thin Line" hints at old-school Bob Dylan, subdued and wry, telling a tale of the day-to-day human condition. Duxbury sings ominously laid-back, husky undertones giving just the right gravity. Travers is tasty, tantalizes. "Why'd You Leave Me" will put you straight in mind of those times you lost a lover and wound up wondering, it was was all so right, where'd everything go wrong. Produced by Travers, Hide Me is a clean recording job damn well done. Laura Moe's in-the-works CD is pop-tinged and has Bill Travers at the helm. With an exquisite interpretation of Stevie Nicks's "Landslide" and a version of Alison Krauss's "When You Say Nothing At All" that sends you someplace soft and sweet.
In the planning, of course, is a full blown Travelin' Moburys CD. Anyone who's caught the group on stage will tell you they're solid perfomers. The Travelin' Moburys are at Minnesota Music Café on Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. During the show, the Moburys host an open mic. Visiting musicians would do well to show up early and sign in. Everybody else, show up early, sit back and enjoy a good show. And buy some CDs.