The voice of Kerosene Kondors frontman Willie Rubio is as ruggedly beautiful as the northern California coastline from whence it first rumbled and swooned, and where the Kondors currently deliver their rustic country and western jug band blues. Their second album is playfully titled New American Standards, which promises not the latest hi-fi haute cuisine in an avant-garde reduction, but rather the meat-and-potatoes-and-whiskey-and-more-whiskey of homegrown continental sounds served up by true believers. Rubio and company are well-versed in a variety of forms, from the sass and squawk of “The Mean Old Jug Band Blues”, which well sums up the band’s central ethos, to “The Ballad of Chelsea Jones”, which morphs seamlessly from Harvest-era Neil Young NoCal (indeed, lead guitarist Buddy Stubbs has played with everyone from Crazy Horse to Gene Clark and Levon Helm in his long career) to a cowboy version of an old English murder ballad. And you’ve never heard a lyric about a severed head sung as hypnotically and seductively as by guest Angela Rose on the standard “In the Pines”. If the words “country music” ever revert to describing music about the country, the Kondors will soar high above the sorry carcasses of big-hat and big-hair wearing pretenders from sea to shining sea.
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