COUNTRY SOUL BROTHER

Jesse Dayton

Nine years ago, Jesse Dayton's debut solo outing, "Raisin' Cain," opened with a heart-stopping, adrenaline-inducing electric guitar lick that announced the arrival of a cocksure Texas honky-tonker who expected to be a leader in the then-viable idea of a takeover of Nashville country music. Indeed, "Kissing Abilene Goodbye" would have been No. 1 had the country coup succeeded.

Dayton issued two more discs, "Tall Texas Tales" and "Hey, Nashvegas!," both of which had highlights but were less focused than the debut. Dismayed but unbowed, the guitarist spent time with the Seattle rockers Supersuckers, played with Cash, Waylon and Willie, reformed his '90s Texas punk band the Road Kings, experimented with Cuban swing and had a play (now being made into a movie) produced in Los Angeles.

Where he found the time, who knows, but Dayton returns to his country roots for his newest collection of tunes, "Country Soul Brother," and although there are superb moments of vintage Dayton songwriting and playing -- the pedal-steel accented "All Because of You," the elegant "Daily Ritual" -- he gets most ambitious on the final cut, "Talkin' Bobby Dale's Hard Luck Blues," a Texas blues story-song that ends in a guitar jam with the brass section.

Other highlights include the rocking title track, which has an opening riff nearly as dynamic as "Kissing Abilene Goodbye"; the spirited spiritual "Jesus Pick Me Up," which sounds as if it's from the 1950s; and the most unlikely country cover of the Cars' "Just What I Needed," rightfully turned into a love ballad and propelled by a Hammond B-3 organ and Dayton's passionate vocals. No, seriously, it works. As a bookend to his solo albums, "Country Soul Brother" makes a fitting companion to "Raisin' Cain."

-- Buzz McClain

Jesse Dayton returns to his country roots for his newest album, "Country Soul Brother."