Billy Bob Thornton

Private Radio

This review appeared on the British Country Network - September 2001

Academy Award winning screenwriter, actor and director Billy Bob Thornton returns to his first love with the release of his debut album Private Radio on Lost Highway Records. Prior to recording this, Billy Bob appeared on the album Hollywood Goes Wild singing "Island Avenue"-an original song written by his late brother Jimmy. The album was made to benefit the Wildlife Waystation animal sanctuary. He also appears on the Earl Scruggs And Friends album singing Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire" and will have a cut on the upcoming Hank Williams tribute performing "Lost Highway".

Billy Bob has been busy within music as of late but this guy from Hot Springs, Arkansas, has been involved with music nearly all of his life-mainly as a drummer with soul and country groups in his early years. More recently he has been sitting in with session musicians in and around the studios of Music City. His friend and co-writer of many of the songs on Private Radio, Marty Stuart produced this album.

Ten of the 12 songs are originals with the exception of "Lost Highway" and The Byrds' "He Was A Friend Of Mine"-in homage to the spirit of his youth and rock and roll. Billy Bob has an interesting dark, deep, moody voice with a blues edge to it, which is ideal for bringing to life his story songs. A couple of plays in and this guy has grown on me.

The opener "Dark And Mad" is a good introduction to his music-street poetry of solitude and insanity reflects a tortured mind within the song. "Forever" is a one-sided telephone conversation from a drifter to his far-away lady-despite his promises he isn't going back. This is down and dirty blues at their best. "Angelina" is the name of Billy Bob's wife and this is their story. The fertile mind leads into "The Starlight Lounge", co written with Holly Lamar and Dwight Yoakam.

Holly duets on this tale of a meeting in the local bar that spells love between losers who are bound to self-destruct the relationship. Perfectly "Walk Of Shame" follows with a tale of afterthought during the walk home the next morning-yes, you bet strong stuff to play on the conscience. Rock-a-billy fires in with "Smoking In Bed" and the pot ain't under the bed! "Your Blue Shadow" lays back nice and easy with a love song for Billy Bob's wife. "That Mountain" is hillbilly lonesome rock with Marty Stuart picking and singing his heart out alongside Billy Bob.

The Byrds song "He Was A Friend Of Mine" finds Marty playing the same guitar that Clarence White played on the original recording-the hippie roots show through on this one. The title track "Private Radio" was co-written with Mark Collie.

The storyline tells of what happens if one looks too close inwardly-I enjoy the scary beauty of realism found in the poetry of this kind of song. "Beauty At The Back Door" is nearly 10 minutes long giving an insight to Billy Bob's rural upbringing in Arkansas. It's a kind of country blues narration from the real world of the south. "Lost Highway" closes this extremely interesting debut album in fine style Billy Bob Thornton could quite easily become a major talent within our music. I cannot get past this album even though I have a stack of work waiting. Excuse me while I open another can and listen.

By Brian Ahern

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