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Mark Erelli: Hillbilly Pilgrim

Boston's Mark Erelli travels the folk circuit, but he tried a little C&W on 2002's "Memorial Hall Concerts." His new "Hillbilly Pilgrim" is even more of a departure, as he and an excellent band venture much further into the worlds of Western swing, rockabilly, and traditional country. Erelli's direct and occasionally sentimental lyrics are a great match for this music, and his voice is equally well suited. The song "Troubadour Blues" -- a rockabilly take on Western swing -- sets the tone with the line, "All you need's a simple song, three chords, and the truth." The bittersweet "Farewell Ball" is a gem about the 1938 closing of the town of Enfield, which was soon after flooded by the waters of the new Quabbin Reservoir. "Troubles," a cover that sets hillbilly instruments to a rocking beat, eerily recalls early Bill Haley and the Comets, while the plaintive "My Best Was Just Not Good Enough for You" has a classic sound like Hank Williams's Drifting Cowboys. The hopping and playful "Ain't No Time of Year To Be Alone" is easily among Erelli's best album tracks. For folk fans, this disc may take some getting used to; but its pleasures are many. Erelli is at the Lizard Lounge on Feb. 6.

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