Honky-tonk (fallen) angel

Don Duprie (aka Doop) is one of Detroit's very best current songwriters. That he writes in what some might consider the Americana/country-rock idiom probably means he's more underrated than he should be in this city. He often gets the "country" label, even though Duprie's approach to country is closer to the roots artists like Springsteen and Mellencamp have claimed in the form than it is to most anyone you might hear on modern country radio. Hell, Doop & the Inside Outlaws even cover a Springsteen song on their second full-length LP — "Prove It All Night," to be precise, delivering one of the best performances of an already well-known song by the Boss in memory, substituting steel guitar hooks for the rocking axes and tinkling piano riffs found in Bruce's original.

The fact that Duprie's two original compositions — written with friend Ty Stone — which open the album, can stand alongside a classic Springsteen tune speaks volumes about his talents. "Everett Belcher," the story of a "hillbilly" running moonshine in the late '40s, is a mighty fine mixture of the rock and the twang, the latter owing as much to Duane Eddy and "Ghost Riders in the Sky" as it does to an old country & western beer garden jukebox. The song's wonderful hook (and chorus refrain) — "He drank too much and talked too fast/Waylon, Merle and Johnny Cash/sang songs about his kind, I know they did" — sets the bar pretty high via its name-dropping. And yet the song manages to totally deliver on different levels; nothing to be ashamed of here. And the moody, Tom Petty-ish "MFNJOB" ("But I got a three-year-old and a new ex-wife, so it ain't up to me/And I put up with all this BS at my MFNJOB") then demonstrates what Hank Williams already knew decades ago — that simplicity and clever wordplay (especially with a great melody behind it) are not mutually exclusive.

"Burn This City" could serve as an anthem for Detroit's current economic plight, much in the same way that Mellencamp's "Rain On the Scarecrow" was one for American farmers. But Duprie is as equally at home with ballads as he is with rockers. "Getting What You Want" ("can sometimes get the best of you") is absolutely lovely; "If Everyone in the World Was My Friend," a solo composition and acoustic performance by Duprie that ends the album, has a poignant message and melody that can haunt long after the CD concludes. And at just 10 songs, unlike so many modern CDs, Everett Belcher never overstays its welcome, much like those classic albums once made by the likes of Waylon, Merle and Johnny Cash

Doop is an outstanding singer as well, and the musicianship here — featuring a somewhat revolving cast of notable locals — is excellent. Jim Diamond who produced also handles bass duties throughout (as well as one lead guitar performance); Whitey Morgan (of Whitey Morgan & the 78's) offers up a blazing guitar solo on the opening track, which also features background vocals by the aforementioned Ty Stone, who's been working on his debut album for Atlantic Records with Kid Rock (ex-Rock regular Kenny Tudrick plays drums on one track here) for nearly two years now. One imagines the results couldn't possibly be any finer than the two CDs Doop & the Inside Outlaws have released during that same time. Whatever the case, these guys should be writing songs for all the Nashville big shots. Modern pop culture would only be that much better for it.

Doop & the Inside Outlaws' CD release party is Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Park Bar, 2040 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-962-2933. With Whitey Morgan & the 78's and Matt Dmits.

Bill Holdship is the music editor of Metro Times Send comments to [email protected].

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