For nearly a decade, New Paltz's hard-core troubadour, David Kraai, has honed his own brand of "Cosmic American Music," a blend of country, rock, folk, and soul originally distilled by artists like Gram Parsons, The Band, and Leon Russell. After incessant gigging, writing, and globetrotting, Kraai now shares stages and makes recordings with standard-bearers of the genre: Country Dreamer, his third and finest CD, features contributions from members of the Black Crowes, Gov't Mule, and Emmylou Harris's band. While these guests add stellar musicianship, Kraai's own Saddle Tramps are no slouches, either; of particular note is frequent duet partner and banjoist Amy Laber, Country Dreamer's not-so-secret weapon. When Laber's barefoot-angel harmonies entwine with Kraai's sad-'n'-sexy twang—especially on the rollicking "Old Oak and Chicory" and the country-soul nugget "Home Sweet Home"—the vocal combo goes down like overproof whisky on a cold Catskill night.
Lyrically, Kraai's got some potent neo-hippie zingers: "Cigarettes and prescription pills can't keep you from going crazy / You'll find out just who you are when you get the chance to be lazy." Country Dreamer offers a wide range of lean, hooky, honky-tonk-friendly fare; raunch-rock on "Gettin' Dirty," Memphis balladry on "Dreamin' With You," and Allmans-y raving on "That's Just the Way We Roll." Whether he's bending those blue notes or shouting to the cheap seats, this Catskill-billy delivers deeply refreshing exuberance, awakening the unashamed flower child in us all.