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Every country critic needs a musical lifeline. Mine came in the form of Bill Tonsaker and the Kitsilano Cowboys, who showed up on my CD player just as Nashville was burying me in an avalanche of mush and unoriginality. Nah, I'd never heard of Tonsaker, either. But the Surrey excavating contractor turned heavy-equipment training instructor has my attention now. His 10-song album, "Five Bucks A Lick", is pure enjoyment, a tribute to the classics - "I'm An Old Cowhand", "Deep Water", "Blues For Dixie" - from a polished tenor with a lifelong devotion to Western Swing. Tonsaker isn't backed up by your average Friday night Legion special, either. The eight-piece Cowboys include Jesse Zubot on fiddle, producer Andreas Schuld on guitar and Chris Nordquist on drums.
Rating - four stars * * * * - Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun
Vancouver's Andreas Schuld has a wonderful feel for vintage country and country-blues music and makes an inspired choice to produce this collection of mostly classics. Tonsaker, his Martin Guitar and that '40s-'50s-era croon of his sure could teach those pressed Levis, CMT poster boys a thing or two. He has a distinct penchant for the swingy side of 'real country' and you just know he's having a ball on "Blues for Dixie" as Jeff Bradshaw teases a swelling pedal steel solo midway through and Schuld follows with his stinging electric guitar. I was most seduced by the cover of Johnny Mercer's wry chestnut, "I'm an Old Cowhand". A very cool record. Rating - four stars * * * * - John P. McLaughlin, The Vancouver Province