Bob and Sally Ackerman are sterling examples of Hometown Syndrome. The greatest husband-wife duo since Mickey and Sylvia, this local Dallas duo has built an audience a hundred times bigger in Europe than in its own back yard. They play up their Texas origins every summer in France, Switzerland, Germany and Ireland, and this past August, for instance, they capped off a 40-date tour with a featured spot at the esteemed Montruex Jazz Festival (and they aren't even necessarily jazz). Code of the West is the Ackermans' third independent CD, finished just in time for Europe. When Bob broke a string during a show in Germany, the stage was deluged with fans eager to purchase this CD; it took 45 minutes before they got back to their set. Imagine this happening at the Balcony Club.
The folksy charm and sly wit of the Ackermans sail over a few heads at local folk venues. For such a Texas cracker, Bob Ackerman (who attended Swiss finishing schools) writes awfully sophisticated lyrics, like a country Cole Porter. He has a prolific catalog of originals, some of them sung with a twang, but somehow reminiscent of Jacques Brel or even Charles Aznevour (it was those Swiss finishing schools). Sally Ackerman plays bass, and possesses a sweet, deceptively simple back-porch voice that blends to perfection with Bob's whiskier throat. The Ackermans have a happy marriage, and have recently taken up performing the national anthem at the Cotton Bowl, before football and soccer games. But they also display a biting edge, as evidenced by the audacious real-life song, "You're an Evil Undertaker, Bailey Jones." The song is retaliation for a bait-and-switch scam perpetrated by a local funeral home. Bob Ackerman's own father had prepaid for a specific coffin. When the time came, the establishment was out of those coffins. The bereaved family was forced to purchase another more expensive one. Hopefully, this funeral home proprietor will hear his name chanted on the radio ("Don't you know that you'll be greeted by the dead men that you cheated"). Now, this is what folk music was invented for.
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Some of the 14 tracks on Code of the West are simple love songs. The verse of "Brothers and Sisters," which gets local airplay on KNON, starts out a bit like the Beatles' "I Will." They do two versions of Tracie Merchant's "My Independence Day," one of them in French for their overseas following. But more local folks need to discover the Ackermans. They project nothing but good will for the state of Texas.