Local Froggy fave Ruff Creek has just released its bid for regional country fame -- the polished full-length No Regrets. Western Pa. songwriter Dave Pahanish penned the lion's share of the 12 tracks with various co-writers, all rendered in the plaintive vocals of Devon Johnson, who could pass for a country-bred Don Henley.
Like its country cousins The Povertyneck Hillbillies, Ruff Creek blends smooth-sippin' Nashville pop-country with more indigenous influences -- the classic-rock canon of 'DVE. Some numbers tap a Tom Petty groove, like "Highway Songs" and "On Your Headstone." There's even a jammin' cover of Styx's "Renegade." Hell yeah.
The remainder of the record is heavy on the small-town sentiments and scenarios, even addressing the ultimate betrayal on "You Change": "I called up John just the other day / Hey, I got a couple tickets to the football game / He said, 'Yeah, I'm gonna have to pass, I just promised my wife I'd go to Wal-Mart ... pick out drapes' / Now if you asked me that's insane."
Thanks to Toby Keith's success, flag-waving ("Call That Pride") is basically obligatory for ambitious country artists, but there's also a few surprises, like the lovely easy-listening ballad "Every Time I Fall in Love," which sounds like a collision between Rumors--era Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles. Overall, Ruff Creek delivers a solid and well-crafted album with roots in the region's passions and obsessions. As Johnson sings on the title track, "If you're gonna ride with me ... you'd better get country."