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Star Room Boys
Alternative Folk

Straight country bands often wallow in the misery of heartbreak without sounding as if they've reflected on the subject with much depth, while run-of-the-mill alt-country acts are usually smart enough to mock this process without acknowledging the depth of their own hurt. Dave Marr of the Star Room Boys is one of the few singers and songwriters who has managed to have it both ways -- the guy is just jaded enough to write something like "Cocaine Parties," but there's no irony in his hurting songs, only the sweet, chronic ache of having the blocks knocked out from under your heart, and his voice (somewhere between Dwight Yoakam and Jay Farrar, but without the obvious mannerisms of either) was made to be heard on a jukebox in a dimly lit honky-tonk. The Star Room Boys' second album, The World Just Won't Leave You Alone, is a more than worthy follow-up to their fine 1999 debut, Why Do Lonely Men and Women Want to Break Each Others' Hearts?; if the band aren't quite virtuosos along the lines of the Derailers, they have the smarts to play within their limitations, and the clean, efficient lines of their arrangements are just the right approach for Marr's songs (and Johnny Neff's pedal steel work is right on the money). Ultimately, Dave Marr is the star of this show, and he carries it beautifully -- "Whiskey and You" and "When I'm All the Way Down" are weepers that George Jones would be proud to record; "The Daydreamer" turns up the tempo without losing touch with Marr's trademark misery; and the title cut is a masterful meditation on any number of agonies in this life. This World Just Won't Leave You Alone is hardly the album to listen to if you've needed to up the dosage on your Prozac recently, but if life and love have let you down and you want to hear someone who understands, Dave Marr and the Star Room Boys are just the drinking buddies you've been looking for. Mark Deming

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