Rusty Wier: Black Hat Saloon (1976) MP3/Flac

Guitarist and songwriter Rusty Wier, a three-decade fixture on the Austin, TX, music scene, was a key figure -- along with Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, David Allan Coe, Jerry Jeff Walker, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kris Kristofferson, Tompall Glaser, and a few others -- in the "outlaw" movement of the 1970s. Though he has issued only nine albums in his career -- five between 1974-1977 -- his best work is timeless and revelatory in how it stands out from the work of his contemporaries. Black Hat Saloon is an album that is equal parts Nash Vegas and L.A. à la Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, and the Jackson-Eagles mania. The guitars have their edges trimmed -- Waddy Wachtel, the ubiquitous studio musician in L.A. at the time, is all over the thing on guitar and bass, as are a host of studio cats from both places. But it's Wier's songs that actually made the production work rather than the other way around. Wier was writing beyond the boundaries of his Texas home, and in a much more urban, streetwise way. Take, for instance, the rocker "Tell Me Truly Julie," with its shimmering lead guitars, or the haunted, hunted ballad "High Road-Low Road," which sounds like it could have come from Mickey Newbury's Nashville rather than Billy Sherrill's. The title track is the only thing that sounds like it could have come from Texas, but with its sheen and space, sounds out of time and place -- like Townes Van Zandt in the middle of a desert on Mars. The entire album is a masterpiece of innovation for country music. Make no mistake, no matter how much it rocks, how much it grooves or plays folky, this is country, and in particular, outlaw country. In fact, Black Hat Saloon defines much of what the outlaw movement stood for in that it is as independent in spirit and execution as the progenitors of that particular sub-genre of country professed to be.