They're perfecting a beastly new Southern Rock strain down in Texas these days. Bands such as Dixie Witch, Blood of the Sun, and Amplified Heat are tempering their metallic onslaught with classic rock and blues, for a big, bold, brash approach - exactly what you'd expect from that country... er, state. And Hognose might just be the best of the bunch. On El Sombrero, the band's second CD, the foursome gear-jams its way through eight songs of fresh Texas whup-ass. Think late-'70's ZZ Top crossed with late '70's Judas Priest. (Or maybe Corrosion of Conformity on a boogie-rock bender. Dual guitar driven, this scruffy foursome comes roaring out of the box on the first four tracks here, all excellent headbanging chunks of sharp-turn-at-60-mph goodness. Track 2, "Local Honey" is a particular winner, and quite possibly the best heading-out-to -the-highway driving song released this year. Another high point is "Muffin," a slow building instrumental peppered with nice wah-wah riffs soaked with delay. And definitely do not miss the hidden track - an aggressive, slightly uptempo take on Pink Floyd's classic "Breathe." Powered by vintage Oranges, Sunns, Marshalls, and Gibsons, Hognose sounds tight enough to bounce a quarter off (if not a silver dollar!). And with its spot-on production and overall great sound, El Sombrero is unequivocally one more reason you don't mess with Texas. -Ken Johnson

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