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Country-rock done up right

Breaker Breaker My Heart
Breaker Breaker My Heart
By Citizen Band

Self-released: 2009

Buy it now

This review first appeared in Turbula in July 2009.

If Berkley-Hart is Jeff Berkley's ode to '70s acoustic vocal duos, his and Calman Hart's updated take on Seals & Crofts and Cecilio & Kapono, then Citizen Band is the other half of his musical soul: the hard-charging country rocker.

Not that any of Berkley's projects are one-man shows, but he produced, engineered and mixed the CD and helped write all the songs, in addition to providing the lead vocals. His singing is outstanding here, and the vocal harmonies nearly as good as those on Berkley-Hart's various albums. Still, it's a stellar lineup in addition to Berkley: lead guitarist Mike Spurgat and drummer Bill Coomes (both from San Diego's Deadline Friday), Marcia Claire (Cindy Lee Berryhill) on bass and John McBride on pedal steel. They've all established musical reputations before coming to Citizen Band, yet the members mesh wonderfully here creating something new and different from anything they've done before.

At times sounding like early Eagles ("Boomerang Love," "Love You to the Bone"), and at others ("Slide," "Now You're Gone") like the Jayhawks, "Breaker Breaker My Heart" consistently has more country than most anything that's come out of Nashville in the last two decades. That country twang gets coupled to some pretty hard-core rock, though, on tracks like "Broken Man," where the band cuts loose on some mighty heavy rock and pyschedelia – the sound is more James Gang than it is anything from the California country-rock movement.

The songs here are top-shelf, all 15 of them, with not a dog in the lot. Most are in a country-rock vein, but "Crush" has a kind of Elvis Costello melding of alternative and pop.

Listening to this album a second or third time through, the feeling you get isn't that the band is about country-rock or Americana &# 150; instead, the music here has the feel of a work of love, that the members of Citizen Band could have turned out an all-blues album or a collection of bubble-gum pop and been just as happy, and created songs just as memorable.