The biggest challenge for a band with such a distinct style is to find new and fresh ways to say what it wants to say while keeping the hard-core fans happy at the same time. On Genuine, Tony Villanueva, Brian Hofeldt, Ed Adkins and new member Scott Matthews (formerly the drummer for Dale Watson) have made a gallant effort to mix things up a bit -- and for the most part, it works. In addition to the oft-used Bakersfield and Beatles licks, the boys have dug a bit deeper this time, channeling the musical spirits of both Marty Robbins and Roy Orbison, among others.
On Genuine, the Derailers show a lot of growth in their original material, particularly the pure honky-tonk tunes co-written by Villanueva and friends. Even so, kicking off an album with a couple of Jim Lauderdale tunes is a surefire way to stack the deck, as Lauderdale's loose country swing is perfect for the Derailers' approach. Villanueva and Hofeldt harmonize like twin brothers, and Hofeldt also plays a mean Don Rich-inspired guitar (he covers the Rich/Buck Owens instrumental "The Happy Go Lucky Guitar" just to prove it). "Scratch My Itch" sounds like it came from an old episode of TV's "Hullabaloo."
Genuine's only real clunker comes near the end, with the rather difficult-to-appreciate "I Love Me Some Elvis," which panders to the obvious. There is some fine picking in it though. And gems such as the title track and the melancholy "Whole Other World" prove the band still has a long way to go before predictability slows them down.
The Derailers play Smith's Olde Bar Wed., April 9.