The Waco Brothers 

With Lonesome Bob, Amy Rigby, California Speedbag, and Florence Dore. Friday, March 1, at the Beachland Ballroom.

As Madonna taught us, slappin' on a cowboy hat doesn't make you a cowboy any more than donning a cape makes you Liberace. You explain that to the Waco Brothers, a whole passel of Chicago boys who favor snappy Stetsons and standard bellyachin' jukebox pop dressed up in fiddles 'n' pedal steel 'n' twangy gee-tars 'n' such. If Friends ever stages an episode in a Texas honky-tonk, one of these dudes will end up making out with Phoebe behind the Dumpster.

Good for him. The rest of us will tap toes but furrow brows. This "country rock" thing is so, so hard to pull off; unless you've got Merle Haggard's teeth marks in your forearm, you're gonna have authenticity problems. Too much of the Waco output is watered down as either rock or country. That doesn't make an evening with these boys a disaster -- "Walking on Hell's Roof Looking at the Flowers" (off 2000's Electric Waco Chair), for example, is a fine anthemic Irish drinking tune (!). But there's only so many hard-edged-yet-catchy-and-vaguely-country-sounding guitar riffs out there, and Sheryl Crow already bought most of 'em on eBay. Best keep it under your hats, boys, and then take the damn things off.

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