Mike Stinson’s outlaw honky-tonk music bristles with the sidearm-carrying immodesty of Billy Joe Shaver and the trailer-park poeticism of John Prine. But Stinson’s broken heart doesn’t slump in a deep depression; it rides on to the endless possibilities of the road ahead, eliciting sanguine statements like “Heaven is a beer joint and a South Texas song.”
Stinson’s southern tongue recalls progressive-edged twang like Patterson Hood with a bit more swilled whiskey and worn miles. His brittle, Americana romanticism in “Walking Home in the Rain,” dismisses a lover with “It’s just gonna suit me and soften up my song / Take me back to simple things I was afraid were gone.”
“Box I Take to Work” is the working musician’s bible; it self-deprecatingly hangs on “three cords I can count on” while talking shop amid Ricky Davis’ pedal steel flourishes. “Lost Side of Town” is urgent, restless honky-tonk that’s knee-deep in self-examination, with Stinson declaring that he needs “something that I still haven’t found” to pick himself up.
With one foot in the shadows of Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard and the other in the neo-Texas currency of guys like Mike Zito, Stinson’s music deals with life after last call.
- Mark Uricheck