Talk about good news and bad news. Thirty years ago, Texas honky-tonk legend-in-the-making Johnny Bush had just released "Whiskey River," the song that would become the biggest and the best-selling of the so-called Country Carusoís career (as well as friend and one-time bandmate Willie Nelsonís signature tune). On stage one night, Bush opened his mouth to sing it and no sound came out. Six yearsí worth of doctors, psychiatrists, and derailed record deals later, he was finally diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, a rare neurological disorder that affected his speaking voice but still allowed him to sing.
In the decades since, record deal or no, Bush has continued to sing, record, and remind listeners that when itís done right, country music can still sound like spit-polished heartache. Green Snakes offers a satisfying slew of Bush originals and covers drawn from the legacies of mentors and old running buddies like Ray Price (with whom Bush spent three years as a drummer), Hank Snow, and Harlan Howard. Backed by a whoís who of Texas talent that swings as elegantly and easily as his own warm tenor, Bush revisits his country-fair roots with the dandy steel-guitar-and-fiddle shuffle "He Donít Deserve You Anymore," leans light into the jaunty honky-tonk romp "Driving Nails (In My Coffin)," and serves up pure corn on the tequila-laced cautionary tale "Dos Tacos." Like that songís hapless drunk, he canít keep himself from reveling in another round of sorrow, self-pity, and Saturday-night salvation.