Rodney Parker & Fifty Peso Reward

If the goal of a two-part series is to have the initial installment create enough intrigue and interest for the consumer to eagerly await the subsequent part, then Rodney Parker & Fifty Peso Reward can go ahead and hang their Mission Accomplished sign up right behind their drum kit.

Instead of waiting further to follow up their last record, 2008's hard-charging The Lonesome Dirge, with a full-album that wouldn't be ready until much later in the year, the Denton-based crew, which specializes in muscular country that occasionally and effortlessly disguises itself as rock, decided to turn the impending full-length into two separate EPs. Hence the The Apology: Part 1.

The crisp but not overbearing production of Mike McCarthy is a perfect match for Parker's Zeppelin-esque tempo shifts that convincingly prevent the tunes from becoming all too calculable. Early on, the symbiotic employment of balls-out rock and reverent roots set this record on a well-formed path. "Guitars," "The Ship" and "The River Song" (which is a fantastically reworked version of the Whiskey Folk Ramblers tune) aim to salute those who rock, while simultaneously tipping their hat to the honky-tonkers who simply want to relish some pedal steel, Dobro and fiddle from time to time.

See, there's a canyon-sized difference between the current crop of retro-arena rock that has been tagged as "country" and the sincere, inventive brand of country that happens to blister any who dare to lend an ear. Rodney Parker and his band really grasp this difference.

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Kelly Dearmore