Hopalong Catastrophe, “Big Bad Wrong” (Four Cats / Radionic Records)

“Best kept secret” is a cliché, but like so many clichés, it’s one that appeared out of necessity. And for three albums now, ex–Vince Vance and the Valiants and Topcats member Buzzy Beano has been replicating the classic desert country of those post-hippie So Cal bands that weren’t too hip to rifle through dad’s record collection and jumpstart the whole Americana movement. Not quite outlaw or psychedelic, this five-piece nevertheless applies singer-songwriter discipline to that movement, recalling no one so much as the Flying Burrito Brothers—it’s those harmonies, really—but also approximating the ragged soul of Buffalo Springfield, the raw natural beauty of Poco, and even the slightly airbrushed synthesis of the Eagles. And with no particular freak flag to fly, Buzzy and co-leads Don Schulz and Richard Duncan can focus on the slippery nature of romance itself.

While there’s nothing particularly surprising in either their themes or their presentation, it’s the slight differences in their three approaches that prove to be the most fascinating element. Duncan is the less-is-more pop classicist, as simple and straightforward as Buddy Holly or early Marshall Crenshaw; Buzzy’s the heartland meat-and-potatoes rock balladeer; Schulz the jaded California vet who goes back to the country, Neil Young–style, to unravel where it all went wrong. You won’t hear the seams unless you’re listening hard, though. Hopalong’s three-headed cowboy rock blends their sensibilities as neatly as their harmonies. And that’s saying quite a bit.

  • Kathleen Lynch

    I agree with Offbeat magazine this CD is one of the best kept secrets. I enjoyed the whole album. Each song has it’s own unique sound and has you really wanting to hear the words in each song. The one I liked the most was “Queen Of Deceit” and Wink of an Eye was one of the best ones too….WTH they were all really good.